Nielsen's Screen Wars Research: Reasons Why Every Screen Matters

Editor’s Note: We sent out a much shorter version of this column earlier today.  This is the correct version. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Nielsen recently published a fascinating study called “Screen Wars, The Battle For Eye Space In A TV-Everywhere World.” The title indicates how we as an industry are struggling to redefine the screen world we now live in.

When I worked at The Coca-Cola Company, we often referred (delusionally?) to how we were doing in “share of thirst” or “share of throat,” as we obviously were way beyond comparing ourselves to the soft drinks battlefield. And now TV and all other screens live, apparently, in a world where they vie for “eye-space,” per the Nielsen study title.

One of the serendipitous conclusions I have drawn from this global study is that the screen world is dominated by “2/3rds.” Every one of the following findings start with the sentence “Roughly two thirds of the global population…



…believe that bigger is better in screen size.”

…prefer to watch programming live at its scheduled time.”

…switch to another channel when the ads come on.”

…often watch several episodes of their favorite program on the same day.”

…say watching time-shifted programming works better for them.”

…prefer TV over any other screen for any program category with the exception of short-form videos (two thirds prefer their computer for short form video).”

…of Millenials and Gen Z-ers prefer their computer for viewing any form of video when at home (TV is second), and their mobile device when out and about (TV is then third).”

…watch video on their mobile phone while commuting on public transport. Or while they are at school, waiting in a doctor’s office or while shopping, as well as while in the bathroom.” (Admit it, you do, too!).

Worryingly, half the global population prefer their mobile screen while driving a car (the study does not clarify if they themselves are driving, or are just passengers)!

When TV was introduced, it was the second screen after cinema. But it quickly grew and thus became the first screen. Today we live in a world where multiple screens vie for attention (or “eye-space”) at any given moment, often even at the same time.

I have said here before that the term “first screen” and ranking any other screen is useless, since it varies by where you are and what you are using that screen for. On the train during your daily commute, your phone is your first screen. At home watching the big game live, the TV is your first screen, and your mobile device quite possibly your companion screen. Etcetera.

The study confirms this fact for all markets around the world. Thus, it shows that the Internet has truly become the global video-viewing-behavior equalizer for those who have access to it. In fact, if you look at studies about, for instance online buying or social media, digital is generally the human behavior equalizer.

It is fascinating to know (and to witness on my world travels) that consumers with access to multiple screens all behave exactly the same, anywhere! Ignoring this as an advertiser, a TV sales organization or media agency is dangerously stupid.

I also learned from Nielsen’s study that a large number of countries have higher Internet penetrations than the U.S. (at 87%): Denmark, Finland (97%), Netherlands (96%), Canada, Norway, Sweden (95%), Australia (94%), Belgium and the UK (90%) and Switzerland (89%). And the Swiss have Alps! Come on, USA, get your act together!

1 comment about "Nielsen's Screen Wars Research: Reasons Why Every Screen Matters".
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  1. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, April 20, 2015 at 8:41 p.m.

    Could this Report on this Study be any more confusing?

    Two-thirds of the time it made no sense to me


    Probably.  Then again, did you say Nielsen was involved?  Probably not.

    Beam me up, Scotty.

    It appears that poor Maarten Albarda has been this victim of a Vulcan mind meld.

    Please, get me out of here.

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