Online Viewing Is Growing But Traditional TV Isn't Exactly Crumbling
I don’t know a journalist who doesn’t like to report that the sky is falling, evidenced by last week’s meteor event in Russia. I can’t get enough video of that fireball zooming by ugly concrete buildings.
One subject everybody likes is The Inevitable Death of Television. It seems healthy, in a way. But broadcast and cable executives who get all crazy about cord cutting are over-reaching a little.
Certainly, more people have given up on TV (and cable) altogether as alternatives like Hulu and Netflix and YouTube make it easy to find easy ways to either watch old TV programs, movies or user-generated content. But it’s hardly a stampede away from TV.
Last week, when Comcast released its fourth quarter earnings it reported it lost 7,000 cable subscribers over the last part of 2012, which must have been hard to notice among the 22 million it still has.
Online video still tends to measure itself in minutes watched, not hours. According to Nielsen, young people are watching slightly less, but the average 18-24 year old watched 22 hours of TV a week in Q3 of 2012. That’s just about two hours less than in 2011. Other age segments had smaller declines but among older viewers, TV viewing actually increased slightly.
“It’s true that TV’s audience has declined – by 1.1% year-over-year in Q3, down from a 1.7% drop in Q2 – while the number of mobile subscribers watching video on a mobile device has grown by 22.5%,” says the Website Marketingcharts.com. “But it’s too early to pronounce the demise of traditional TV viewing.
“Here’s why: in Q3, 18-24-year-olds may have watched less TV on a weekly basis, but they still watched about 22 hours. How much time did they spend watching video on the Internet or on a mobile phone, combined? About 2 hours and 15 minutes.”
It’s not nothing. But by comparison, 182 million monthly users view 19.2 hours of online video-- per month, according to comScore, more than two hours less than the 22 hours of TV 18-24s watch every week.
Things change. At some point, TV prime time viewership must have seemed paltry compared to radio, but that certainly flipped in a hurry during the 1950s. More likely though, online video will to some degree migrate to TV itself through smart TVs and the millions of people who already watch TV fare on computers.
Trendwise, TV does seem to be losing its grip on young viewers and not just in the USA. In a Financial Times story today, Jonathan Allan, sales director for Britain’s Channel 4 says, “Five years ago, two per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds did not have a TV at home. Now it’s 6 per cent. These people are watching TV solely through non-TV devices.”
The paper notes, “This is particularly true with youth-oriented content. In recent months, Channel 4 has seen some of its programmes, such as Skins and Made in Chelsea, achieve higher numbers of viewers through its on-demand internet service than through its terrestrial broadcasts.”