Commentary

Young People Watching Less TV

According to a new report from Marketing Charts, youth as a whole are watching less traditional TV, but the data in the Q3 2015 total audience report from Nielsen suggests that the declines may be slowing, and that traditional TV remains the primary video viewing mechanism for adults across all age groups.

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Nielsen’s most recent “Total Audience Report” indicates that Americans aged 18-24 watched a weekly average of 15-and-a-half hours of traditional TV during Q3 2015. That represents a year-over-year decline of a little more than 2 hours per week. In other words, 18-24-year-olds as a group went from watching about 2-and-a-half hours per day during the third quarter of 2014 to a little more than 2 hours and ten minutes per day during Q3 of this year.

Traditional TV Viewing Habits (18-24 Population; hrs;min; 2015)

 

Weekly Viewing Hrs:Min

Year

Q1

Q2

Q3

Q4

2013

23:24

21:32

21:45

22:27

2014

21:49

19:01

17:34

18:33

2015

18:04

16:26

15:30

na

Source: Nielsen Data, December 2015; (Q3 Live Viewing: 13:58, TimeShifted: 1:32)

This was the smallest year-over-year drop among the 18-24 population since Q1 2014, and is the third consecutive quarter where there has been a contraction in the year-over-year viewing decline, says the report.

Nevertheless, between 2011 and 2015, Q3 traditional TV viewing by 18-24-year-olds dropped by almost 8-and-a-half hours per week, or by more than an hour and ten minutes per day. In percentage terms, Q3 traditional TV viewing by 18-24-year-olds was down by 11.8% year-over-year and has now fallen by 35% between 2011 and 2015. In the space of 4 years, more than one-third of this age group’s traditional TV viewing time has migrated to other activities or streaming.

Of course, there are other age groups of interest when analyzing traditional TV viewing, including teens (a potential leading indicator) and older Millennials (aged 25-34), who might be more apt to watch traditional TV as they round into life stages such as parenthood and home ownership.

Looking at the latest Total Audience Report, the data indicates that:

  • Teens (12-17) watched 17 hours of traditional TV per week in Q3, an 11.5% drop year-over-year and a 30% contraction from 2011
  • Older Millennials (25-34) watched 21 hours and 10 minutes per week in Q3, an 8.6% decrease year-over-year and a 23.8% drop from 2011
  • Gen Xers (35-49) watched 28 hours and 41 minutes per week, a 3.4% decrease year-over-year (equating to 1 hour per week) and a 10.7% contraction from 2011
  • Adults aged 50-64 watched 39 hours and 21 minutes per week, flat year-over-year (down only 2 minutes per week) and down just 2% from Q3 2011 (about three-quarters of an hour per week)
  • Adults aged 65 and older watched 47 hours and 33 minutes per week, up 20 minutes per week from the previous year (<1%) and up about 5% from 2011

Those results strongly show the age-related skew in traditional TV viewing, with declines easing off with each age bracket. Overall, live TV consumption by adults averaged 4 hours and 7 minutes per day in Q3, down from 4 hours and 13 minutes per day during Q3 2014 and 4 hours and 27 minutes per day in Q3 2013. Clearly, those modest declines mask the larger drops among younger age groups, says the report.

Video Viewing By Device (18-34; Weekly Minutes/Adult User; Avg. Week In May)

 

Weekly Average: Min/User

Medium

Q2 2014

Q2 2015

TV

1,670

1,550

TV-Connected devices

599

726

PC video

313

348

Tablet video

56

93

Smartphone video

43

55

Source: MarketingCharts; Nielsen Data, December 2015 (This chart measures video consumption among users of each medium; those 18-34-year-olds who don’t watch video on their smartphones are not diluting the average)

And broadcast TV’s audience breakdown, by age:

US Broadcast TV Adult Weekly Viewers; Age and Avg. % Share (Indexed to Adult Average 100)

 

Winter 2014

Spring 2015

Age

Index

Share

Index

Share

18-24

83

10.0%

80

9.6%

25-34

93

16.2

93

16.1

35-44

102

17.3

100

16.7

45-54

104

19.3

105

18.8

55-64

106

17.6

108

18.2

65+

107

19.6

108

20.5

Data: Experian, Spring 2015; Simmons, Winter 2014

Nielsen’s Comparable Metrics report, which offers a host of data on media reach and consumption, notes that overall media usage is steady among 18-34-year-olds, as increasing time spent with TV-connected devices, smartphones and tablets over the past year have more than offset declines in time spent with TV, radio and the PC.

Some other facts specific to the 18-34 bracket, from the report:

  • Radio reached the largest share (92.7%) of 18-34-year-olds during the average week in the May 4-31 period, while the smartphone (app + web) audience was larger than the TV audience (81.7% vs. 75.7%)
  • Weekly reach was higher for smartphone video (54.9%) than for PC video (32.5%) and tablet video (16.3%)
  • Time spent by 18-34-year-olds on average was higher with PC video (113 minutes per week) than with smartphone video (30 minutes) and tablet video (15 minutes)
  • Among 18-34-year-old users of these various media, PC video (348 minutes per week) far outstripped tablet video (93 minutes) and smartphone video (55 minutes) in time spent
  • 48.6% of 18-34-year-olds used TV-connected devices during the average week in Q2 2015, with users averaging about 12 hours a week with these devices

Overall, TV accounts for a larger share of total media time for the lowest-income households than the highest, with this attributed to lower-income adults watching TV more throughout the day. When looking at time-of-day activity (not specific to users of each medium):

  • TV usage is highest among lower-income adults across the entire day, with the delta largest during the daytime and overnight
  • Radio listening has the smallest difference between high- and low-income adults throughout the day
  • TV-connected device usage is actually highest among the mid- and high-income adults during prime-time, but lower-income adults have the highest use outside of prime-time
  • The lowest-income adults have the greatest usage of digital devices in the evening hours but the least usage until 5PM

The report acknowledges that what’s more pertinent than the precise number is the direction of that figure, and the consistency afforded by these quarterly reports allows for a thorough examination of those trends.

For additional information about the Nielsen Audience Report, please visit here.

 

 

2 comments about "Young People Watching Less TV".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 21, 2015 at 7:08 a.m.

    It's a little pathetic when you lose over a THIRD of your youngest customers in 4 years and make the excuse that the rate of loss is slowing down. Well, of course, it's slowing but you've already taken the largest hit. It's like losing a third of your mental capacity and then continuing to lose your brain, but at a slower rate. Still not good. Habits formed early often last a lifetime.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 21, 2015 at 7:20 a.m.

    Douglas, we shouldn't confuse average minute ratings with total reach. Sure, "live" viewing is down among the younger set in terms of frequency of viewing and this decline will, no doubt continue. However, across a week or a month, many young adults still watch the broadcast networks. In fact, their total monthly reach is probably on the order of 85% or a bit more on a live basis. Also, any advertiser who is looking to the broadcast networks---especially ABC, CBS and NBC, to target the 18-24- year- old consumer, without considering complimentary alternatives like cable and digital is not being realistic.

    Fortunately for the networks, very few advertisers---less than 5%---regard the 18-24 -year-old adult as their primary focus of attention, as opposed to adults aged 25-54, for example, who are far more numerous.

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