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Americans love their TVs, but flirt with streaming

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Americans are watching more TV than ever, according to Nielsen’s (s NLSN) new cross-platform report. The average viewer watched close to four hours of TV every day in the first quarter of this year, or 158 hours and 47 minutes per month, up 22 minutes from the first quarter of 2010. People also watch more online video and more video on mobile phones, which leads Nielsen to say media consumption across all devices is growing.

However, this isn’t true for everyone. A subset of people who watch a lot of video on their PCs tend to watch significantly less traditional TV. This trend is especially pronounced in the demographic of 18- to 34-year-old viewers. Twenty percent of that demographic watch about 27 minutes of online video on their computer on average every day, but only 212.1 minutes of traditional TV.

Chart courtesy of Nielsen.

This is in stark contrast to the 20 percent who only watch 0.1 minute of online video per day on average. That group of the same demographic watches 246.5 minutes of traditional TV per day. Nielsen (s nlsn) excluded viewers who didn’t stream any content at all from this data, which is still a sizable chunk: “More than a third of the TV/Internet population is not streaming, whereas less than 1 percent are not watching TV,” Nielsen states on its blog.

Another caveat is that Nielsen doesn’t break out streaming to connected devices, which is arguably the biggest source of Netflix (s NFLX) traffic these days. Still, the data shows at least a subset of the TV viewing audience is getting more selective. Again, from the Nielsen blog:

“Until the fall of 2010, Nielsen data consistently indicated that the heaviest media consumers are so across all platforms. A subset of consumers from television and Internet homes has now emerged that defies that notion.”

Big deal, some might say. The day has only so many hours, after all. However, this could be the beginning of a bigger shift, and we may have just noticed the first time online video is making a notable dent in traditional TV viewing statistics. In other words: Americans still love their good old TV, but some have started to explore their options and are actively flirting with alternatives.

Image courtesy (CC-BY-SA) of Flickr user tm-tm.

2 Responses to “Americans love their TVs, but flirt with streaming”

  1. Chris Painter

    The problem with averaging the data out to 27 minutes per day for the 18-34 demographic and then claiming they are replacing their regular TV show viewing with this, is that it doesn’t clearly call out what percentage are watching full length TV shows. Most dramas, and other popular shows like Glee are closer to 1 hr long (44 minutes with fewer or no commercials). As modelmotion pointed out, wouldn’t it be more likely that this 27 minutes is just YouTube and other short videos watched on their PC?

    Throughout the day, I can easily rack up close to that much time myself at work just checking a few videos.

    As with any of this data, it’s never quite enough information to clearly call out what exactly is happening. There is no doubt some traditional TV viewing via a MSO being replaced by some online viewing via Netflix or Hulu. But I want to see more clear data before making bigger claims.

  2. “This trend is especially pronounced in the demographic of 18- to 34-year-old viewers. Twenty percent of that demographic watch about 27 minutes of online video on their computer on average every day….”

    27 minutes of online video is a remarkably low number for this “prime demographic”. This comes at a time when the people over at Tubefilter claim the world is ready for 30 minute web series.

    It would be interesting to take a much closer look within this demographic to see what the actual distribution looks like. Is the data simply skewed to the low side by an average that include a majority that watches virtually no online video, or what?

    You would not have to watch a lot of Youtubers to clock up 27 min. There is a ton of TV shows now online that have become quite popular with this demographic. So, I am not questioning the 27min but saying we need to understand it much better. Might make for an interesting follow up story.