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Facebook knows what you’re doing during commercial breaks

Hint: You’re not watching commercials.

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Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

You know how sometimes you still watch live TV? And how if you’re watching live TV, sometimes a commercial comes on?

Well, guess what happens then?

If you’re reading this, you know. But now Facebook wants to spell it out for you: You ignore the commercials and you look at your phone.

Here’s the graphic version of this story: Facebook says it tracked the behavior of 537 people who told the company they watched “the season premiere of a popular TV show” last fall. This bar chart measures Facebook usage over time. See the spikes? Those are commercial breaks.

And just to beat it into the ground, Facebook tracked usage for people who didn’t watch the show. No spikes, just steady liking and sharing.

Yes, it’s a small survey, conducted by Facebook, about a single show last year.

On the other hand, since it’s only measuring Facebook usage, it probably understates the case. If you factor in Twitter, texting, Clash of Clans and everything else you can do with your phone when a commercial comes on, those spikes would likely be much sharper.

Those graphs come via a longer blog post/op-ed from Facebook today, which is theoretically about the state of video advertising, and which offers advice about how to make effective ads.

It also includes some new video stats from the company. Among them: On average, Facebook users watch autoplay video for 16.7 seconds per clip; they watch autoplay video ads for 5.7 seconds.

But Facebook’s big takeaway here is clear, and it’s the same takeaway Facebook has been offering for years: Advertisers should move their spending away from TV, because consumers have moved their attention away from TV. And if advertisers are going to move their dollars away from TV, Facebook is ready to take those dollars.

This article originally appeared on

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