Study: Old-School TV Viewing Is Still Growing

Family Watching TV

A range of on-demand viewing options — and some new platforms to watch that content on — has traditional television watching on the run, right? Well, not quite. The average number of hours Americans spend every week sitting on the couch watching terrestrial, cable and satellite television continues to rise, according to a new year-end report from Turner Networks.

As a Time (NYSE: TWX) Warner-owned cable conglomerate, Turner usually fashions these reports to highlight the precipitous migration of viewers from broadcast networks like Fox (NSDQ: NWS), CBS (NYSE: CBS), ABC (NYSE: DIS) and NBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) to cable networks like TNT and TBS. (This kind of data spin comes in handy when you’re trying to change perceptions on Madison Avenue, and get the same amount of dollars for your commercials as the big broadcasters get.)

However, Turner’s research also sometimes highlights other interesting viewing trends. According to the report, the average number of hours a typical viewer spent watching TV in 2011 was 34.2 (I know, who are these people, and where do they get the time?). The figure was 34.0 hours in 2010 and 32.3 hours in 2006. This despite the rise of on-demand services like Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX), HBO Go and Hulu, and the emergence of new devices to watch that content on, from tablets to gaming consoles.

Other findings:

— While live viewing has slowly been declining over the last five years – down from an average of 32 hours a week in 2006 to 31.7 hours in 2011 — time-shifted viewing has risen from just 0.4 hours five years ago to 2.5 hours last year.

— Since 2006, average weekly viewership of the Big Four broadcast networks has slipped from 9.4 hours per week to 7.8 hours, while ad-supported cable watching has increased from an average of 15.6 hours per week five years ago to 17 hours last year.

— Viewership of “other” programming — premium cable channels, Spanish language networks, etc. — increased from an average of 7.4 weekly hours to 9.3 hours over the five-year span.

Over 45 percent of TV viewers used digital video recorders last year, up from 24 percent in 2007, Turner reports. DVR viewing is having a particularly profound influence on cable ratings.

USA Network caper drama Covert Affairs, for example, drew, on average, 61 percent of its total “Live+ 7″ audience from time-shifted viewing in the seven days after it aired.

Turner, meanwhile, noted that usage of its content through its various Turner Digital online destinations – which includes everything from the Cartoon Network to CNN — was up 9 percent last year to 93 million unique users, according to comScore.

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