Primetime TV Data With Nielsen

According to a recent Nielsen report, while advertisers are looking for primetime ad space, the real opportunities lie with the viewers, who continue to access and engage with TV content in a variety of ways. Knowing when and where to find consumers is crucial to reach them, and ensure ads break through the clutter and catch attention.

When it comes to primetime television programming, says the report, gone are the days where the Friday night line up, or must-see-TV Thursdays, ruled our content consumption. With the addition of more networks that offer innumerable programming options, viewers can be more selective about when they turn on their tubes.  

According to Nielsen’s Advertising and Audiences report, Sundays ranked highest for primetime TV usage with an average of 125 million Americans using their TV sets. Monday was not far behind, as 120 million U.S. viewers had a TV set in use. Friday (107 million) and Saturday (108 million) had the least number of viewers using their TVs during the 2013-2014 season through January.  

2013-14 Season-to-Date Primetime TV Usage


Persons With Sets in Use (Million)















Source: Nielsen, State of the Media Report, May 2014

In the U.S., people watched an average of 155 hours of traditional TV a month during the fourth quarter of 2013. For perspective, that’s 21%, or five hours of the day! And audiences are viewing more content across screens. Americans watched an average of 14 hours of time-shifted TV per month and spent an average of 34 hours and 27 hours using smartphone apps and the Internet, respectively, during the same period.

Monthly Time Spent Using Devices(Q4, 2013; Hrs:Min)

Device Use

Monthly Time Used

Watching traditional TV


Watching time shifted TV


Using a DVD/BluRay device


Using a game console


Using a multimedia device


Using the Internet on a computer


Watching video on the Internet


Using any app/web on a smartphone


Watching video on a smartphone


Source: Nielsen, State of the Media Report, May 2014

Video viewing through multimedia devices, such as Apple TV and Roku, is also on the rise, with viewers averaging over an hour a month streaming to their TVs. When it comes to online video consumption, Americans now average 7.5 hours per month streaming video on their computers.

Good content gets people talking, says the report. With social media now a routine element of the TV-viewing experience, audiences are moving seamlessly across platforms to view and talk about their favorite shows.

According to Nielsen, 86% of U.S. smartphone owners say they use their devices while watching TV, and nearly half do it every single day.

While watching, more than 40% of tablet owners are using their devices to look up information about characters, while others email or text (29%), check social media conversations (18%), or send in votes or comments about shows they are watching (12%).

US Tablet Owners Using Device While Watching TV re: Program Viewed

Activity on Tablet

% of Users

Look up information about the characters


Use email/text to communicate


Read conversation in social media


Send votes or comments


Source: Nielsen, State of the Media Report, May 2014

 For more information from Nielsen Advertising & Audiences, please visit here.


2 comments about "Primetime TV Data With Nielsen ".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 30, 2014 at 8:07 a.m.

    When you ask a smartphone user whether he/she watches TV while using the phone, of course you get a big answer. But what's the time frame? Are we talking about an average minute of smart phone usage or are we talking about something that happens from time to time but, in terms of volume, may not account for all that much "simultaneous" activity? The same goes for tablets. If a tablet owner uses the device for 30 minutes, how many of those minutes are actually "duplicated" by "watching" TV? A lot of people buy into the idea that most of the population is multitasking almost all of the time----based on a misinterpretation of highly generalized surveys that purport to measure this phenomenon. If a more precise volumetric study were available----and Nielsen probably has such data-----I suspect that the number of multiple usage occasions----where two or more media are attended at exactly the same time-----would be much fewer than the stats, cited above, appear to indicate.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, May 30, 2014 at 8:12 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more Ed. Many of these studies basically ask "have you ever ..." or "in the past 4 weeks have you...". In essence they are reporting reach data and not average usage data. The sad thing is that so many people fall for that.

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