Third Screens

In a media studies lens, computers are the third screen that consumers use to view content, with movie screens and television screens existing as the first and second, respectively (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017). Computers can be used to access movies, television, books, magazines, newspapers, music, and a vast amount of other content. The technological advancements of computers and the Internet have revolutionized the way that we consume media.

kyleYouTube reigns as the most popular site for viewing content online such as television shows and movie snippets (and sometimes full-length episodes), as well as user-created content. Competitors like iTunes and Vimeo and streaming sites such as Hulu also offer users access to full-length episodes of professionally produced television shows (Campbell et al., 2017). Since these shows and movies are typically first offered on TV or in theaters, third screens are often used as catch-up services for consumers to view content that has previously aired. This unique ability of third screen viewing on the Internet can make television and theaters obsolete, especially for people who prefer the use of their computer as a viewing platform.

However, mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are referred to as the third screen in the marketing industry since the marketing industry does not recognize movies as a standard marketing approach. Television and the Internet (computers) are the first and second screens, respectively (Tanakinjal, Deans, & Gray, 2010). In a media studies lens, mobile devices occur after computers as the fourth screen; hence why it can be confusing while researching the third screen.

Companies marketing through mobile mediums recognize the potential to grasp thekyle 2 attention and gain the business of a large amount of consumers (Tanakinjal et al., 2017). This can be partially traced to the popular methods of media consumption on computers and mobile devices. Advertisements and marketing are now heavily focused on the Internet and mobile apps in order to tap into the consumers who frequent their computer, smartphone, and tablet screens for media consumption.

Whether it be through a media studies or marketing industry lens, third screens represent the transformation of our media consumption habits. Many people receive a large portion, if not all, of their news and entertainment on their personal devices, opposed to in theaters or on television. Much has changed since the time that only first and second screens existed.


Campbell, R., Martin, C., & Fabos, B. (2017). Media & culture: Mass communication in a digital age. Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Tanakinjal, G. H., Deans, K. R., & Gray, B. J. (2010). Third screen communication and the adoption of mobile marketing: A Malaysia perspective. International Journal of Marketing Studies, 2(1), 36.

Image Attribution: The images used in this post are in the Public Domain.

Written by Kyle Hayden, 2017