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Nielsen findings reveal growing complementary TV, Internet usage

he complementary relationship between TV viewing and Internet usage is growing stronger as the number of American viewers who say they surf online while watching TV grew to 134 million in December 2009, up 4.6 percent from December 2008, The Nielsen Company said last week.

According to Nielsen’s latest “Three Screen Report,” which examines how people consume TV, mobile and Internet media, the last quarter of 2009 saw the amount of time spent simultaneously watching TV and using the Internet per month grow to 3.5 hours, a 35 percent increase from the third quarter of the year.

For those worried that Internet and mobile viewing would erode time spent watching TV, the findings should be good news. “The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside expanded simultaneous usage argues something quite different,” said Matt O’Grady, media product leader for Nielsen, in an online posting.

According to the Nielsen findings:

  • Fifty-nine percent of people used the Internet and TV at the same time in December 2009, compared to 56.9 percent in June 2009 and 57.5 percent in December 2008.
  • The time spent viewing TV and using the Internet simultaneously stood at three hours 30 minutes in December 2009, compared to two hours 39 minutes in June 2009 and two hours 36 minutes in December 2008.

Overall, online video consumption grew 16 percent in ’09 vs. ’08. Likewise, active mobile video viewers grew 57 percent from 11.2 million in Q4 ’08 to 17.6 million in Q4 ’09.

In O’Grady’s view, the American love affair with TV continues. “We seem to have an almost insatiable appetite for media, with online and mobile programming only adding to it,” he said.