TV May Be On, But Women Are Paying Less Attention

May 21, 2009 – Advertisers and television programmers face a steeper climb in winning the hearts and minds of women this year because TV is quickly becoming mere background music to them, according to a new report from research firm Solutions Research Group.

The study measured the media habits of 2,000 women ages 12 and older and revealed some sobering findings for media companies: while the time spent with TV is on the rise over last year, attention to shows is dipping.

Because they're home more due to the recession, about 58% of women say they spend more time with the Internet and 38% spend more time with TV, opting to shop, exercise and sleep a bit less instead. But while time spent with TV is increasing, it's harder to get their attention.

Only half of respondents said they usually pay full attention while watching even their favorite shows. The laptop is partly to blame. Half of women with laptops say they have them on frequently or more when watching TV, while 53% of women said they use a wireless device, such as a phone, which watching TV.

That suggests networks will have to work much harder to grab a viewer's attention and that engagement is becoming a more important measure of advertising effectiveness. In fact, the data calls into question the value of traditional statistics about how much time the TV is on in a typical home. While it might be on, moms and women 25 to 39 are more likely to use the TV as background music, especially when they are on the computer.

"What women are engaging with more is the computer," says Donna Hall, a senior director at SRG. "In the context of the upfront and new shows being announced, you have an incredibly fickle audience to impress out of the gate, and while the TV might be on, they aren't always paying attention."

While on the computer, their eyes are often on TV programming. Multitasking while watching TV is not unique to women, but two-thirds of women say they don't have enough time to get things done. As a result, this "time poverty" is usually felt more acutely by women, says Kaan Yigit, an analyst with SRG.

About 80 percent of the videos they watch online are also available on TV, ranging from the Susan Boyle viral video from "Britain's Got Talent" to "Saturday Night Live" clips.

"The Susan Boyle and SNL examples also remind us that the most significant TV moments now are within easy reach online," Yigit says. "When we go to bed at night, we know that we can access whatever happened last night somehow, somewhere. Often the first experience with a TV moment is when it's posted on YouTube."

About 47 percent of women 18 to 49 check Facebook or surf the Web when they get up in the morning, slightly more than the 46 percent who watch TV first thing.

The numbers will likely rise in favor of the Web. There are now 71 million homes that have broadband and nearly 30 million with DVRs. "The future of time shifting and on-demand favors online over cable and DBS in the long run," Yigit adds.