Commentary

Harris Poll: Networks Face Two-Front War

TV-vs-Laptop-A

It is not as if traditional media needed more bad news, but the latest 24/7 Wall Street/Harris Poll of consumer attitudes towards media has to send a shudder a few of those mid-Manhattan boardrooms. The big number already being bandied about from this poll is the 55% of American (of 2,095 polled) who felt that traditional media as we currently know it would no longer exist in ten years. What apocalypse the public has in mind for TV, radio, and print is unknown. The anomaly in these numbers is that 67% of the respondents said they actually preferred to get their news from TV, newspapers or magazines, but 50% tend to go online for almost all of their news.

Harris found that network TV is caught between a cable rock and an Internet hard place. For now 67% of people say they watch TV shows mainly on TV sets, while only 5% say they watch principally online. But when you slice across demographics the numbers look less encouraging. For adults 55 and older 84% mainly use their TVs, but among 18-34 only 48% are getting their TV news mainly from the big screen.

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The migration to Web news is influenced somewhat both by age and by education. For 18-34-year-olds, 65% say they get almost all of their news online, compared to 33% for the 55+ segment. The educational divide is not as glaring but still present, with 43% of high school grads relying mainly on the Web for news but 54% of people with some college and 53% of those with college diplomas.

And if they aren't migrating from network to the Web, many appear to be drawn towards cable. Less than a third (30%) say they primarily watch network TV shows, while 29% say they watch cable most of the time. More than a third (36%) watch both equally. And here again, there is a bit of a mixed view of things when the consumer is asked to determine what the media future will look like. While 82% think that network TV will always be a big part of the viewing experience, 65% think more people will be watching cable in the future. Not surprisingly, a slight majority of 51% believe that cable programming is superior in quality to network programming.

As people migrate their media consumption habits, they may be a little ambivalent about the changes in their own behaviors even as they enact them.

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