Skip to main content

NAB 2009: Study Finds Recession Boosts U.S. TV Viewership

Click here for complete coverage of the 2009 NAB Show

The poor U.S. economy means that people are spending more time watching TV, though less time watching it on mobile devices. That is according to a breakout of U.S. viewership patterns from an Accenture study released Monday. (See related story, "Accenture Study Sees Growing Interest in Traditional TV")

But the good news for broadcasters who are banking on a mobile component of the digital revolution is that the next generation (18- to 34-year-olds) have sustained their mobile viewing, as well as increased their on-demand viewing and their willingness to pay for downloading video and other content.

Being a parent also appears to boost interest in mobile and on-demand video. Parents with kids 13-17 prefer more content on-demand, according to the survey (of about 1,000 people 18-plus polled in January and February). They also beat the average for willingness to watch on a PC or mobile device. And they are willing to pay for the convenience (51% vs. 35% overall).

Americans were watching more channels in 2009 than 2008, which Accenture attributes to the down economy, hypothesizing that it is because there is no incremental cost in surfing to more channels. (This is the second year Accenture has conducted the study.)

The flip side of that is they are watching fewer shows on alternative devices than they were last year, except for the younger demos and lower income.

Americans still have an appetite for on-demand programs. According to the survey, 56% of Americans "would be interested" in watching TV on their PC, up 6% from last year, with younger demos boosting that average (80% for 18-24; 70% for 25-34).

About a quarter of those polled (26%) said they would be interested in watching shows on a mobile device, which is up 3 percentage points from 2008, but 50% of young people (18-24) say they would be interested, and 47% of 25-34's.

Race appears to be a factor in preference for mobile, with 53% of Hispanics interested and 32% of African Americans, but only 18% of Whites.

One troubling trend for mobile fans is that the number who answered "would not watch" was up 8 percentage points over 2008. Accenture says that may be because they assume it is expensive, since there was not the same increase for "would not watch" on a PC, though that could also be the relative screen sizes, too.

Accenture concludes that it might be wise for programmers to target mobile programming to black and Hispanic audiences.

As with the Global survey in general, viewers say they learn the most about new programs from promotions for the shows on TV (46%), followed by channel surfing (34%), and "coming across the show on a favorite channel" (33%).

Even with DVRs and online repeats, the majority of respondents still try to catch their shows the old-fashioned way: "try to be home when the program is on TV."

But as with other answers, younger demos have higher percentages of other ways like setting DVRs or checking for them online. Very few young or old try to catch up on the go, with only 2% saying they would check out mobile versions, though that jumps to 6% for the under-30 crowd.