Traditional TV Still Sinking in Stream of Digital Video

Traditional TV watching continues to wane, especially among younger consumers, as more homes get connected devices and streaming services.

In its Total Audience Report for the third quarter of 2018, Nielsen said that overall media use is little changed from a year ago at 10 hours and 30 minutes per day. Total video consumption dropped a bit but the ways in which that video is being watched continues to shift, with young adults in the 18- to 34-year-old age bracket watching more video on their smartphones than the shrinking amount of time they spend watching linear TV.

Internet-enabled TV connected devices can be found in 68% of U.S. households, up from 63% in the third quarter of 2017. Homes with smart TVs are up to 41% from 32%. And the share of homes with a streaming video subscription, be it Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and such, was up from 61% to 67% of homes.

Related: Digital Gives Cross-Platform Campaigns 16% More Reach

While streaming grows, Nielsen said the total number of multichannel TV households in the U.S. dropped to 80.1% of U.S. homes from 82.1% a year ago. The gradually dropping number is important to programmers who receive subscriber fees to pay for the shows they produce.

The number of traditional cable homes fell to 76.4% from 80.4%, but was supplemented by the growth of virtual MVPDs such as Sling TV and YouTubeTV. Homes with subscriptions to vMVPDs nearly doubled to 3.7% from 1.5%.

Over the air households continued to grow, reaching 12.9% of U.S. homes from 12.7% a year ago. And broadband only homes jumped to 7% from 5.2%.

The amount spent with live TV dropped to 3 hours and 44 minutes from 3:54 a year ago. Time shifted TV was down to 30 minutes per day from 31 minutes per day.

Usage of internet connected devices and smart TVs showed their biggest ever jump, rising to 29 minutes per month from 21 minutes per month. Watching video via apps or the web on a smartphone increased to 2:31 from 2:14.

The average time spent on video declined to 5 hours and 24 minutes from 5 hours and 27 minutes, but viewing was unchanged from the second quarter.

The average time spent per adult on live plus time shifted TV fell to 4:13 per day from 4:25 per day a year ago, while the amount of time spent with TV connected devices rose to 47 minutes per day from 40 minutes per day and the use of video-focused apps on a smartphone rose to 11 minutes from eight minutes.

Live plus time-shifted TV use was the highest among the adults 65 plus set at 6:51, down slightly from 6:52. Among adults 50 to 64, viewing of live plus time shifted TV was down to 5:29 from 5:37

Viewers in the 18-34 demographic spent a greater share of their media time using a smartphone than a TV. Those young-adult consumer spent just 1:51 with live or time shifted TV, down from 2:14, while viewing on the web or an app on a smartphone was up to 2:50 from 2:27. Among 35 to 49 year olds. TV viewing was down to 3:34 from 3:48 while phone use rose to 3:01 from 2:43.

“Overall total media use among U.S. adults remains unchanged year-over-year at 10-and-a-half hours per day," said Peter Katsingris, senior VP audience insights at Nielsen. "But there are shifts in were that time being spent is dedicated to, as we see increases in Internet connected devices and app/web smartphone usage that are gradually replacing time spent on other sources. These shifts are not surprising, as nearly seven out of 10 homes now have a device capable of streaming content, and a similar amount have access to a streaming SVOD service.”

With the growth of streaming services and the rush of big media companies -- Disney, Time Warner, Comcast -- to get into the subscription business, Nielsen looked at consumer attitudes towards streaming.

Consumers said that what they were looking for in a streaming services was a variety of content (57%), easy to use technology (56%), access to movies (52%), accessibility/search of desired content (51%), access to local programming (43%), resolution options (40%), ability to record and control playback (39%), access to specific network programs (38%), and access to live sports (35%).

Streaming consumers said there were a number of things that influence which content they watch on streaming services. The top things they watched were existing shows they used to watch on broadcast media, which was cited by 67% of those responding. Viewing habits were also affected by recommendations from family and friends at 66%, browsing streaming service websites at 59%, new shows learned about on broadcast media/channel websites  at 54%, reviews at 52%, recommendations provided from streaming service websites at 48%, and introductions on social media at 42%.

Only 34% of viewers credited advertisements on billboards and magazines as influencing what they watched.

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.