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Most people check e-mail, surf the Web when watching TV

The majority of people in the U.S. who watch television are also using smartphones, tablets, and e-readers when viewing their favorite programming, Nielsen finds.

Nielsen looks at smartphone, tablet owners, and what they're doing with those devices while watching television.
Nielsen looks at smartphone, tablet owners, and what they're doing with those devices while watching television.

The majority of Americans who watch television take to their smartphones, tablets, and e-readers to maximize their productivity and entertainment while a show is on, a new study has found.

According to Nielsen, 42 percent of Americans who own tablets are using that device each day when watching television. On the smartphone side, 40 percent of folks turn on their handsets each day when watching a show. Just 14 percent of e-reader owners, however, use that device every day when they're watching a television show.

Given those figures, it might not be surprising to learn that just 12 percent of tablet owners and 13 percent of smartphone owners never use those devices when watching television. A whopping 45 percent of e-reader owners, however, never pick up that device when a show is on.

So, what are those people doing when watching television? According to Nielsen, 60 percent of respondents said that they'll check their e-mail when a show is on, while 59 percent of folks said they'll boot up their e-mail program during a commercial. Surfing the Web for information that's not related to a show was typical for 46 percent of users, while 45 percent of respondents said that they're typically looking up information about the particular program.

Visiting social networks and checking sports scores followed with 42 percent and 30 percent of respondents, respectively, saying that they engage in those activities while watching television.

Nielsen's study comes more than a year after the company revealed that the vast majority of Americans are watching television and using the Internet at the same time. Last March, the research firm said that in the fourth quarter of 2009, 59 percent of Americans performed both activities simultaneously, representing a total of 134 million people.

This time around, Nielsen dug a little deeper by examining the differences between men and women when they watch television. According to the research firm, women are slightly more likely to check e-mail during a show than men, but are just as likely to search for unrelated content on the Web while the show is on. Women are far more likely to check a social network during a show, but more than twice as many men than women will check sports scores while watching television.