More Users Than Ever Chat and Browse While Watching TV

In April of last year, we reported the number of people who surf the web while watching television at 59%. Since then, the number has shot up, according to a joint study by Yahoo! and the Nielsen Company released this week. We've written before about replacing your TV with your laptop, and with the recent announcement that the Criterion Collection will be on Hulu Plus, the TV-free setup appears more tempting than ever.

But the statistics say otherwise. According to the joint Nielsen-Yahoo! study, a whopping 86% of mobile Internet users are plugging in while their shows are on.

That means using social networks, text messages, laptops and mobile phones to chat about the show they're watching or to browse for content (both related and unrelated).

The 59% statistic from April was itself a 35% increase from Nielsen's 2008 findings.

And what are these users doing?

They're on Twitter and Facebook, watching the running commentary as shows air, and giving analysis after it's over on sites like Television Without Pity.

Services like Miso and GetGlue function as versions of Foursquare, allowing users to "check in" while participating in media consumption.

For us, co-watching is nothing new, having participated in synchronized DVD playing over Skype during the course of a long-distance relationship. (Here's a tip: British DVDs run at a slightly faster framerate than American ones, meaning they occasionally fall out of sync; the British side must pause and wait for the US side to catch up.)

Today, we tend to stay connected while shows are on, keeping our smartphones handy to pull up IMDB should a familiar but unidentified face appear. But there are also times when we make sure all peripheral screens are darkened, so as not to distract from the viewing experience.

Do you chat while watching your shows? Do you keep your laptops on and at the ready? Or do you prefer to stay totally dark? Share your experiences in the comments.

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(Image: Flickr member jainaj licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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