A Convenient Truth For Networks: Warm Weather Doesn't Hurt Viewing

It wouldn’t be a surprise if research surfaces showing more Americans will watch video online than eat bread in five years. Headlines about increasing multi-platform TV consumption are inescapable.

Yet, TV as we know it, continues to have more and more takers. Viewership on that set 10 to 12 feet from the couch, or five feet in front of the bed, is escalating.   

A case could even be made that TV is weatherproof. Temperatures were unusually warm all winter. There were 15,000-plus warm temperature records set in March. Overall, it was the warmest March on record since 1895.

So, people didn't have to hunker down inside as usual. Americans were spending more time after work going out to dinner, shopping or doing things outside the home, right?

Perhaps, but they weren’t missing their TV. Both HUTs and PUTs were up in the first quarter.

For those unfamiliar with TV argot, those aren’t government agencies, but industry metrics for overall TV usage.

In the January-March period, the HUTs (households using television) rose 1% in prime time to 62.0, meaning by one measure in an average minute 62% of the country had the TV set on.

More remarkable is what happened with PUTs (people using television). Among total viewers, the figure was also up 1% in prime time, to 40.2.

But check this: in the 18-to-49 demo -- the group that would include loads of cord-cutters and Netflix addicts -- the figure was up 2% to 37.0.

Looking at the full TV season, from September through April 15, HUTs were also up 1% (to 61.7). PUT levels for both total viewers and 18-to-49 year-olds also showed 1% increases.

That season-to-date time frame includes the December-February period, which the government calls the fourth warmest winter on record and says was drier-than-average for the Lower 48 states.

So, HUTs and PUTs are up 1% and 2%? Big deal. That's a number about as small as Congressional approval ratings. There’s still no question that eventually traditional TV use will decline. Check back when the 18-to-49 demo is dominated by Generation Z.

After all, competition is increasing from Hulu, which has 38 million users a month and is moving further into original programming. YouTube is creating a run of original channels and Netflix is becoming a studio, while TV stations and Barry Diller want to stream live content on mobile devices.

OK, but both HUTs and PUTs are up considerably (4%) compared to five years ago. So, who's to say that trend won't continue? After all, a warm winter proved easily conquerable for TV.

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