Multitasking Is Not Just for Kids Anymore

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New York-According to MTV Networks research guru Betsy Frank, multitasking, previously prevalent among teens, has spread to adults.

At an MTVN briefing here last week, executive vice president of research and planning Frank defined behavioral convergence as "people acting as if their media platforms have already converged, even though the technology isn't there yet."

Citing the latest MTVN/Viacom Inc. consumer study on media, entertainment and leisure time, she said one-third of Americans' days, or seven hours, is devoted to leisure activities. That includes 4.7 hours devoted to media (3.2 hours of which is television viewing).

TV viewing in 1999 rose for all but adults 50-plus in the latest study, with viewing up most among those aged 12 through 24, Frank noted.

By doing several things simultaneously and reducing time devoted to sleep and social activities, consumers have in effect lengthened their day by about six hours.

That trend is due in part to the growing usage of PCs and the Internet by adults-particularly young adults-Frank said.

Those data were culled from questionnaires and 24-hour diaries kept by volunteers.

Multitasking is "no longer a kid phenomenon," as it was overwhelmingly in MTVN's first study three years ago, she said. The heaviest multitaskers are between age 12 and 34, which includes the 18-to-34 young-adult demographic. "Adults are catching up faster than expected," Frank added.

It's easier to multitask now that so many homes have PCs and TV sets in the same room, she noted. Of the estimated 62 percent of U.S. homes with PCs, one-half have TV sets in the same room.

About 25 percent of sample respondents go online while watching TV. The most popular online activities are e-mail, chatting and checking news, sports and weather sites.

Frank said the third annual MTVN study-of 4,000 people aged four through 70-showed that the relationship between the TV and the PC has evolved into "one of coexistence, not cannibalization."

A total of 17 million people played Who Wants to Be a Millionaire online during May, during the ABC broadcast or at other times, and 6.5 million people voted online for the MTV Movie Awards. Those viewers are clearly deriving something from those experiences, she said

Although convergence of the TV and PC has received the most hype, Frank observed that music may represent "a better model for convergence than TV," since youngsters and young adults have embraced the Internet as a source of music.

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