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The Meter Never Lies, Right?

Survey-taker: “How many hours of educational television do you watch per month?”

Me: “Oh, I’d say at least five hours, maybe close to five and a half.”

Hey, I learn a lot about the Vikings from that show on History.

It’s a universally acknowledged truth that people overstate the amount of time they spend doing things they think they should be doing. Like watching PBS NewsHour instead of The Simpsons. Or politely and accurately answering surveys, rather than hanging up.

How this relates to the time people think they spend watching video on a mobile phone, I can’t say for sure. But apparently we think we spend a lot more time that way than we actually do. Or than my teenage daughter does.

Nielsen’s newest Cross-Platform Report, out last week, included Electronic Mobile Measurement statistics for watching video on a phone rather than the unmetered survey responses used in past reports. The TVB, a not-for-profit trade association for commercial broadcast TV stations, pointed out the huge discrepancy between the 2012 fourth-quarter self-reported figure of 5 hours and 23 minutes and the Q4 2013 metered figure of 1 hour and 23 minutes.

Maybe it just seems longer when you’re watching a phone video, because of the number of times the signal gets weak and the video buffers. Or when a call comes in, and you get interrupted and then resume the video, you count it all as time spent watching. Or maybe people give an answer that averages in themselves plus the teenagers living with them.

Either way, TVB pointed out that anecdotal, self-reported evidence of people spending more time watching mobile video can be suspect.

It also noted that the new Nielsen report finds TV usage (as metered) grew slightly in Q4 2013, to about 155 and a half hours monthly from about 154 hours in Q4 2010.

Traditional-TV and timeshifted-TV watching also grew year-over-year among persons ages 18-24 in Q4 2013, while watching video on the Internet declined in that group, TVB pointed out.

In my home, video use is up across the board. And you can check the meter on that.