Video Viewing Strong, But Traditional TV Losing Ground

Nielsen recently released its quarter 2 Total Audience Report — and as usual, saw a lot of headlines quoting topline data.  

But a more in-depth analysis reveals some important insights into what’s really going on.  I often give Nielsen a hard time about how it measures and reports more specific data and program ratings, but it is actually very good at measuring broad media usage. 

I’ve looked at quarter 2 reports from the last three years, and here are some highlights from my analysis:

-- For the first time, adults are spending more time with other screens than with traditional TV.  But that’s not because of a major decline in TV viewing, which  was only down by 13 minutes per day over the past two years.  The amount of time spent with other screens, however, is up by nearly two hours per day over the same period, indicating a significant increase in screen multitasking while watching television.

-- The amount of time adults spent watching all video was actually unchanged from last year, and up slightly versus two years ago.  Traditional television declined by about 4% from last year, while time spent with video on other screens grew by 31%.



This obviously varies considerably, depending on age.  Even among adults 18-24, overall video viewing is stable from a year ago, but traditional TV viewing is down by 16% (2 hours, 22 minutes per week).  This is compensated for by viewing video on other screens, which is up by 45% (2 hours, 18 minutes per week).

-- Compared to two years ago, time spent with all video screens has increased among adults 35-49, 50-64, and 65+.  As with other age groups, traditional TV is down and viewing of other video screens are up.

-- We media folk, who tend to have numerous media devices and subscriptions, often lose sight of the fact that despite being available for more than 20 years, DVR penetration only recently inched past the 50% mark.  Subscription video on demand, which has only been around half as long, has shot ahead and is now available in almost 60% of the country).

So, what does all this mean?  Well, people still like watching video content on a television set, and traditional TV is still by far the most-viewed screen among all age groups.  But traditional TV’s lead over other screens is rapidly narrowing, particularly among younger viewers.  On the other hand, total video viewing across all screens continues to rise. 

Content is still king.  Research and audience measurement need to be increasingly nimble to keep up.  Commercial audience measurement is still basically nowhere – not a good sign as commercial avoidance gets increasingly easier.

1 comment about "Video Viewing Strong, But Traditional TV Losing Ground".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 6, 2017 at 9:57 a.m.

    I agree with most of your conclusions, Steve. The extent of true multitasking ----especially during commercials----is a fairly hot subject these days and I wish that Nielsen would provide average minute data on this not only for primetime broadcast but also for all viewing in all dayparts as well---on any kind of channel.

    I have also been looking at the 2nd Q Nielsen reports for the last few years and, bearing in mind that this is merely a survey panel, not a true national audit, what struck me is how the sources of TV/video content have changed---per Nielsen---versus what we hear from various sources with their own special agendas. For example, over the past four years, the number of TV homes rose by about two million. In that same period, wired cable lost three million as did telco coverage while satellite distribution rose by almost a million homes. In contrast, the biggest change was for those with broadband- only --up 3.8 million, while those able to watch via over-the-air broadcast- only  were up 3.7 million. When all of the sources are examined together, in the light of their projected household bases, it is clear that the biggest loser---per Nielsen----is telco coverage which is down 25% while wired cable homes declined only 5.5%. Also, while the number of broadband- only homes was up significantly, these gains were matched by increases in the number of broadcast-only homes. Net, net, if you consider what percentage of TV homes can probably see a typical TV commercial---or ad campaign--- in 2014 the percentage was about 98% while now, it is 95%. Hardly the sweeping abandonment of commercial TV that some are claiming.

    As for viewing time, our latest estimate of the amount of an average adult's TV/video viewing time that is devoted to content containing commercials is about 87-88%, including SVOD and YouTube, with Netflix, at 7% being the primary non-commercial element. This, of course, is nothing to laugh at ---or discount----which is one reason why the broadcast TV networks and their station/cable channel cohorts are moving aggressively into the SVOD/digital arena.

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