Commentary

Digital Media's Consumption Growth Slowing; So Is Traditional's Decline

Digital media’s consumption growth rate in the U.S. continued to slow last year, while the rate of decline in traditional media use (dominated by television, of course) also slowed.

Driven by higher smartphone and tablet penetration, new gaming console launches, and the draw of major political and sporting events, U.S. digital media usage rose 7.1%, to 18 hours per week, in 2015, according to PQ Media’s Global Consumer Media Usage & Exposure Forecast 2015-19.

That's lower than the 9.6% increase in digital media usage in 2014 (to 16.8 hours per week). Further, the projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2015 through 2019 -- 7.3% -- is barely above 2015’s growth rate. That CAGR will result in an average 23.9 hours per week of digital media consumption by 2019.

Digital media’s share of total U.S. media usage increased to 27.7% last year -- up from 25.9% in 2014, and from 17.3% back in 2009.

Mobile audio led usage growth last year, surging 33.5%. Increasing use of Spotify and other streaming music subscription services was a major driver, according to Patrick Quinn, president and COO of PQ Media. Mobile video’s usage growth was nearly as robust, at 26.9%

Meanwhile, traditional media usage in the U.S. decreased 2.4% in 2015, to 46.8 hours per week, after declining 2.1% in 2014, to 47.9 hours. (Television consumption is, of course, historically higher in even years, due to Olympics and election coverage.)

Despite continued growth of digital media consumption, traditional media’s rate of decline will not accelerate, according to the report.

Instead, the projection is for traditional consumption to decline at a compound annual rate of 2.1% through 2019, bringing usage hours per week for these media down to 43.1. (In comparison, in 2009, total traditional media hours consumed per week were 53.4.)

Television’s Continuing Evolution
Traditional media brands’ digital extensions are an increasingly important driver of online and mobile media usage.

“This is driving up overall media usage, as more content is repurposed for digital devices, such as Internet and mobile video streaming of TV programs and movies, online radio stations, Web-based multiplayer editions of console videogames, and mobile newspaper and magazine apps,” points out Quinn.

Within the overall media landscape, television continues to be the leading combined traditional and digital media “silo,” and aggressive players like NBCUniversal-Comcast are “strongly positioned” for continued growth, Quinn notes.

Driven by the expansion of devices for accessing television programming, including OTT video, laptop computers and smartphones -- as well as scripted shows created for non-broadcast channels -- total broadcast and cable television consumption (through traditional sets and all other devices) reached 32.4 hours per week last year, representing 50.2% of all U.S. media consumption.

By 2017, the increased availability of user-generated and other media content, combined with younger demographics watching less TV, will result in total television usage accounting for less than half of all U.S. media consumption (49.8%, or 32.8 hours per week) for the first time since 1953, when radio was still the dominant media choice, reports Quinn.

Still, PQ Media projects that traditional TV viewing will continue to dominate through 2019.

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