Observational Study Finds TV is Still Tops

In what is being billed as “the largest and most extensive observational study of media usage ever conducted,” TV was still (by a long shot) found to be the dominant technology for video consumption, according to a Video Consumer Mapping study from the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence (CRE).

If that result sounds familiar, it should. The findings were in line with Nielsen’s recent three-screen report that found TV viewing at an all-time high. But unlike that and other reports based on surveys, this $3.5 million research project was done by actually observing 350 people going about their days. Observers had special devices that recorded consumer exposure to visual content across traditional television, computer, mobile and other screens during the spring and fall of 2008.

Two key findings from the study are worth highlighting here that reinforce previous research:

Contrary to some recent popular media coverage suggesting that more Americans are rediscovering “free TV” via the Internet, computer video tends to be quite small with an average time of just two minutes (a little more than 0.5 percent) a day.

Despite the proliferation of computers, video-capable mobile phones and similar devices, TV in the home still commands the greatest amount of viewing, even among those ages 18-24. Thus, in the eyes of the researchers, this appears to dispute a common belief that Internet video and mobile phone video exposure among that group (and the next one up, age 25-34) were significant in 2008.

Kids 18-24 do watch less live and DVR’d TV than other age groups, but the amount of TV they watch (209.9 minutes a day) still trumps what they watch on their computer (5.5 minutes a day) and via mobile (0.1 minutes per day).

If you want TV watchers, the CRE study says you should look to baby boomers (ages 45-54), who average 335.7 minutes (5.5 hours) a day of live TV and 19.4 minutes a day of DVR’d TV.

While we’re not disputing these findings (we’ve covered the cord-cutting myth), the online video landscape not only evolved quite a bit over the course of 2008, it’s changed just since the start of 2009. Between the the continued roll out of high-quality and HD streaming that makes online viewing more TV-like (or even on the TV), Hulu (s GE) making big gains, and big events like Obama’s inauguration and March Madness rocking the online video world, even though these CRE findings were just released, now would actually be a good time to revisit the study.