Nielsen: Live TV Viewing Continues to Decline

Live TV viewing continued to fall in the fourth quarter, according to Nielsen’s fourth-quarter Total Audience Report.

The report provides new data on the slow but steady continuation of trends affecting the TV business, including the fall in pay-TV homes, the increased use of smartphones to view video, and the increasing penetration of subscription video on demand.

Live viewing totaled 4 hours and 23 minutes per day among adults 18 years old and up, down from 4:27 a year ago and 4:31 in the fourth quarter of 2014, Nielsen said.

Watching time-shifted shows on digital video recorders rose one minute to 33 minutes per day.

The biggest increase in media usage came in time spent on smartphones, which rose to 2:32 from 1:15 a year ago.

Tablet use rose to 26 minutes from 23 minutes and usage of multimedia devices was up to 17 minutes from 11 minutes a year ago.

TV usage climbed as adult consumers got older. Those in the 18-24 demo watched 15 hours and 36 minutes of TV live and on DVRs per week, down from 16:17 a year ago. In the 25-34 bracket, viewing was 22 hours. It was 30:55 for those 35-49 and 42:56 for those 50-64. Viewers 65 and up watched for 51:10 per week, the only group showing an increase.

Smartphone video viewing for all adults averaged 44 minutes per week, up from 18 minutes a year ago. Those 18-24-year-olds spent 1:15 watching video on their phones. In the 25-34 demo, viewing was 1:04, 35-49 it was 52 minutes and it was 34 minutes for those 50-64. There was insufficient data for those 65-plus.

The number of cable-plus homes—Nielsen’s designation for homes with cable, satellite or telco service—fell less than 1% to 98.7 million homes in the fourth quarter from 99.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Wired cable homes rose to 53 million from 52 million, satellite homes rose to 35.9 million from 34.5 million, and telco homes fell to 10.2 million from 13.4 million.

There were big jumps in the number of broadcast only and broadband only homes. Broadcast only homes rose 12% to 14.7 million from 13.1 million a year ago, and broadband only homes rose 28% to nearly 5 million from 3.9 million.

The share of homes with a subscription video on demand service, such as Netflix, rose to 56% from 48% a year ago and 54% in the third quarter of 2016.

(Photo via Pabak Sarkar's Flickr. Image taken on Feb. 15, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 9x16 aspect ratio.)

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.