The “second screen” has become a ubiquitous part of the TV experience, especially for major events like the Super Bowl. While that’s fairly common knowledge now, we wanted to see what the second screen experience actually means for marketers, so we explored app engagement during Super Bowl 50.

To no one’s surprise, we found that the second screen experience during events like Super Bowl Sunday is a great mobile engagement tactic for growing an app’s relationships with its users. Fans turned to mobile to augment the Super Bowl TV experience, extending the entertainment and social value of the national anthem, the half time show, the commercials and the celebration of the champs.

Mobile App Usage Highest at Kickoff

When looking at when apps were used the most during the game, we saw the highest time in app (measured by the length of time an average app was used in each hour period) occurred at 7 PM, right after the pregame festivities that began at 6:30 PM and the actual start of the game. At 7 PM, the average time in app was 8.7 minutes. The 7 PM peak is likely caused by people checking their phones right up until the start of the game and commenting on Lady Gaga’s national anthem performance.

Time in App During Super Bowl 50

After the peak at 7 PM, fans began to spend less time in apps, likely to focus on the fast-moving game. This decrease continued until 9 PM, where time in app hit its lowest point during the game at 8.11 minutes per app.

App usage then had a spike at 10 PM, at an average of 8.4 minutes spent per app. As the game was winding down, people were engaging with apps to see reactions and comment about the game.

Social, Music, and Entertainment Apps Were the Most Popular Apps

Where exactly was all that mobile time spent? We found Social Networking apps were the most popular app category during Super Bowl 50, with an average of 3.21 app launches during the three and half hours of the game. This makes sense, as Super Bowl-watchers use social media to comment about what is happening during the game and stay connected to friends watching in a different location. For the unlucky few who were unable to watch the game live, social media also became the prime source for real-time information and updates.

Popular App Categories During Super Bowl 50

Music and Entertainment Apps were also used a lot during the game, with respective averages of 2.4 and 2.2 app launches. Music continues to play a large role in the Super Bowl as the halftime show gets bigger and better every year. Many people were probably brushing up on Coldplay songs in preparation for the show and downloading them after. There was also a great deal of buzz surrounding Beyonce’s new song, which she released the night before the game and subsequently performed on the big stage.

Entertainment apps came in third place for app launches during the game, proving that the Super Bowl is more than just a sporting event. With content remaining king, many brands and apps found specialized ways to benefit from the exposure of football’s biggest night. Some entertainment apps aired, and enabled the sharing of, the commercials (some even had exclusive previews) or provided exclusive content for the game. Other entertainment apps are able to take advantage of the party-filled weekend and reported on every celebrity in attendance.

North Carolina vs Colorado : The Mobile Showdown

By now we all know that the Denver Broncos won the actual game, but who won the mobile game? Unlike the Super Bowl, the results of this matchup were much closer but, like Super Bowl 50, Colorado beat North Carolina to win the mobile title. Average app launches were even between the two states, but mobile users in Colorado spent longer in apps, beating North Carolina in average session length by 22 seconds.

Mobile App Usage Colorado vs North Carolina Super Bowl 50

Equivalent app launches but different session lengths may be explained just by the nature of the game. Perhaps fans in Colorado had longer app sessions because there was more good news to be read about the Broncos than the Panthers. Fans of Cam Newton and the Panthers may have used their phones as an escape from witnessing the hard time their team was having on the field, but, with so many apps displaying updates, they didn’t want to stay in them too long. Colorado fans, however, could endlessly scroll through their apps replaying the victory over and over.

Regardless of the type of app they manage, app marketers should see the Super Bowl as an opportunity. Today, 25 percent of apps are only used once, so finding ways to keep in touch with users is key, and the Super Bowl provides a way to get in front of them when they are most engaged.

For apps that provide value during sporting games such as the Super Bowl, there are many ways to capitalize on the exposure the second screen has to offer. For instance, marketers could send a push message at the peak time for mobile usage or deliver an in-app message with a special offer during a key moment of the game. If apps don’t have a direct connection to sporting events, there are probably other TV experiences that do make more sense. For these app owners, the major trends identified from this Super Bowl Sunday analysis may help identify the major user behaviors and moments they can use to engage users on a deeper level.


Localytics is the leading mobile engagement platform across more than 2.7 billion devices and 37,000 mobile and web apps. Localytics processes 120 billion data points monthly. For this study, Localytics multiplied the average sessions per user in app by the average session length across all apps to get to a Time in App measurement, and then broke it by hour and then category. For the breakdown by hour, we looked at the Time in App from 6PM to 11PM because the game started approximately at 6:30 PM and ended shortly after 10PM. The hours are based on eastern standard time.