Nielsen: TV Usage Of 'TV' Continues To Erode, Mobile Is Fastest-Growing Segment

The amount of time Americans spend watching “TV” via a traditional television set continues to decline, according to the latest edition of Nielsen’s quarterly Cross Platform Report. While television remains the overwhelming means most people use to watch “television,” usage of the medium declined 1.7% over the past year, according to the second-quarter 2012 report. While still minuscule in total time spent watching TV, mobile phones were the fastest-growing means of watching television over the past year. All other sources were either flat (the Internet) or declined (DVD/Blu-Ray, video game platforms) in terms of TV usage.

“Most of the content from these activities was delivered to us on the TV set in a traditional manner, over broadcast, cable, satellite or telco connection, and a growing amount was delivered by Internet connection,” Nielsen states in the report, adding: “Americans also added another five hours in front of the computer screen using the Internet or watching video content and an increasing amount of time using smartphones this quarter.”

Almost as many Americans (236.5 million) watched TV on their phones during the second quarter of 2012, as watched it on a conventional TV set (283.3 million), albeit for much shorter durations. While the average American spends nearly 145 hours per month watching TV on a traditional TV, Nielsen didn’t even report the average time they spend watching on their phones. But mobile subscribers watching video on their phones -- a smaller sub-segment of about 37 million Americans -- spend an average of five hours and 20 minutes watching TV on their phones each month, an increase of 31 minutes over the second quarter of 2011.

Time spent watching TV via other connected devices -- an Internet-connected computer, DVD/Blu-Ray and video game consoles -- also declined.

The report also sheds some light on another sub-segment of the population -- people who watch TV via a connected device accessing either Netflix or Hulu. The study shows that both users watch about an average of five hours and 20 minutes of content per day, but much more of the Netflix users’ total time (23.4%) is spent doing something other than watching television, such as playing video games, playing pre-recorded software or streaming media.

11 comments about "Nielsen: TV Usage Of 'TV' Continues To Erode, Mobile Is Fastest-Growing Segment".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, November 13, 2012 at 9:50 a.m.

    Page 8 gives an interesting tidbit: Broadcast-only viewing grew from 9.6% to 9.7% -- still pretty insignificant.

  2. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, November 13, 2012 at 11:07 a.m.

    Joe, I'm confused by two conflicting figures in this article. First, you say that nearly as many people have watched TV on their mobile phone (236.5 million) as have watched a program on a TV set, but then a few sentences later you go on to say that 37 million have watched TV on a mobile phone. I believe that first figure has been misinterpreted - perhaps it reflects the number of people who have the capability to watch TV on their phones?

  3. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, November 13, 2012 at 11:20 a.m.

    Sorry, Rob. These are Nielsen terms and Nielsen breaks, and Nielsen execs were not available at presstime to explain them. I will try to get a better answer for you today. But the difference they reported were two separate breaks:
    One for people who "watch" something on phones (236.5 million) and another for people subscribing to mobile services who watch vide3o on their phones (37 million).

  4. Bill Sanders from Imagine One Mobile, November 13, 2012 at 4:11 p.m.

    Subscribe to mobile services that consist of or include video? Paid subscribers? Very unclear what differentiates the 236 vs. 37 MM numbers.

  5. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, November 13, 2012 at 4:45 p.m.


    Agree that it's unclear. Still trying to get clarity from Nielsen on what distinguishes the two breaks. One is simply called "mobile phones" the other is called "mobile subscribers watching video on a mobile phone." Both fall under Nielsen's "How They Watch" estimates for monthly reach.

    Here's their footnoted boilerplate if it helps:

    "Mobile video user projection, time spent and composition data are based on survey analysis of past 30 day use during the period. The mobile video audience figures in this report include mobile phone users (aged 13+) who access mobile video through any means (including mobile Web, subscription based, downloads and applications). Beginning in Q1 2012, data reflect enhanced methodology for calculating the Total Minutes spent watching video on a mobile phone. Historically, distributions of key variables (# sessions and # minutes per session) were skewed warranting the use of the median as the measure of central tendency, Total Minutes= (median # sessions) * (median # minutes). Current analyses of the distributions indicate that the variable # minutes per session fits a more normal distribution and justifies the use of the mean as the measure of central tendency. The current calculation reflects a truer metric of average time spent watching video on a mobile phone, Total Minutes = (median#sessions)*(mean#minutes). All previous quarter/year metrics have been recalculated with new methodology. Data is trendable within this version of the report, but not to previous quarters published editions. For Q2 2012 mobile data contained in table 2 is for June 2012 only."

  6. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, November 13, 2012 at 7:13 p.m.

    @Rob & @Bill: Finally got some clarity from Nielsen on these breaks. The first one, "mobile phones," is just the universe of all people in the U.S. with a mobile phone (but not necessarily accessing TV or video with it). The second one, "mobile subscribers watching video on a mobile phone,"is is exactly what it sounds like. Sorry for the confusion. We will publish a correction shortly.

  7. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, November 13, 2012 at 9:37 p.m.

    Joe... Really? "Albeit for shorter duration"... Yes, like hours and hours shorter duration. Nielsen wouldn't even dignify the number by telling us how much time was spent watching mobile. Instead, we're "tittilated" with DRAMATIC increase from mobile (from .2% to 1% is a 5X increase - that's dramatic) vs a very small (tiny? miniscule?) decrease? And we lead with that headline? Appreciate your comments here and reporting this. But I'm really disgusted with how the digital echo chamber has everyone salivating over insignificant results --- even if they're released under the Nielsen brand.

  8. Jeremy Hale from Suddenlink, November 14, 2012 at 10:53 a.m.

    You know what's funny is some of this data is pretty darn close. For example it says, "The study shows that both users watch about an average of five hours and 20 minutes of content per day, but much more of the Netflix users’ total time (23.4%) is spent doing something other than watching television, such as playing video games, playing pre-recorded software or streaming media." I like to think of myself when it comes to these studies and think in terms of how I use technology and I would have to say that this particular segment is relatively truthful but it's not just a single user it is also my wife and my two children that use not only my phone but also my tablet. I use the xbox 360 console however with the new tablet my usage has gone down on the xbox but I believe it is just a trend we're seeing. Like that old saying, "Boys and their Toys!", I firmly believe that once the newness wears off I'll go back to my old user habits.

  9. David Kissel from InStadium, November 14, 2012 at 5:36 p.m.

    Beware of headline writers! On page 2 of the report, average time spent viewing TV per person per day has been STABLE since 2008, and went down only 5 minutes vs. YA, out of a total of 4 hours and 18 minutes. "Continues to erode?" I think not. What should be more troubling to TV advertisers is the creeping incidence of simultaneous 2nd screen usage...40% of TV viewers are also using their smartphone or tablet while watching TV. Now, when the TV's on, there's more competition than ever for the viewer's attention. So Brand X, how do you feel about those Network and Cable TV CPM's now?

  10. Stephen Hull from Winnercomm, November 15, 2012 at 1:58 p.m.

    Does anyone for see multiple format shows e.g. television versus mobile device where show segments are shorter based on the shorter attention span of mobile viewers? PPV has long segments, TV has 3 - 5 minute segments and possibly 1-3 minute segments for mobile viewing?

  11. Aff Marshall from 165Media, November 15, 2012 at 8:12 p.m.

    Traditiona networks will go the way of the dinosaur if they do not find a way to adapt to new technology! They can blame "Lack of Blockbusters" and the Olympics all they want. Deep down, they know that their content is for broad audiences. That even goes with cable networks. It's all about segmentation and niche markets now.

    There's devices like Roku, Boxee, and Apple TV that gives the user freedom to pick channels that suit their lifestyle and interests. Yeah, some of the streaming devices has ads, but that's ok for now. The networks will have to compete with these devices pretty soon for market share and they will fail miserably! Let me tell you why!

    There's a ratings system called Nielsen that traditional networks use to provide data to advertisers. It's suppose to give them info on who is watching what and when. The problem is that the data that Nielsen supplies isn't enough anymore. It also takes too long for the advertiser to get data from Nielsen. Streaming media players can provide data much faster on the target audience and the performance of the advertisement.

    You want to know another reason why the networks will not be able to compete? Price! The cost for basic cable can be about $100 PER MONTH. The cost of a streaming media player is usually a one time cost of anywhere from $49.99 to $129.00. After that, you have the freedom to add as many channels as you want. There are many free channels as well as premium content such as Hulu Plus, Netflix, and Amazon on Demand. When you add mobile devices to the equation, forget about it!!!

    These networks are living on borrowed time and they know it!

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