Traditional TV Still Sinking in Stream of Digital Video

NEW YORK—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 says 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 percent of U.S. households, up from 63 percent in the third quarter of 2017. Homes with smart TV as are up to 41 percent from 32 percent. And the share of homes with a streaming video subscription, be it Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and such, was up to 67 percent of homes, up from 61 percent.

While streaming grows, Nielsen said the total number of multichannel TV households in the U.S. dropped to 80.1 percent of U.S. homes from 82.1 percent 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 home fell to 76.4 percent from 80.4 percent, 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 percent from 1.5 percent.

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

Of the 10 hours and 30 minutes per day adults in the U.S. spend with media, the amount spent with live TV dropped to 3 hours and 44 minutes from 3 hours 54 minutes a year ago. Time shifted TV was down to 30 minutes per day from 31 minutes per days.

Usage of internet connected devices and smart TV 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 hours 31 minutes from 2 hours 14 minutes.

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 hours 13 minutes per day from 4 hours 25 minutes 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 six hours 51 minutes, down slightly from 6 hours 52 minutes. Among adults 50 to 64, viewing of live plus time shifted TV was down to 5 hours 29 minutes from 5 hours 37 minutes.

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 hour 51 minutes with live or time shifted TV, down from 2 hours 14 minutes, while viewing on the web or an app on a smartphone was up to 2 hours 50 minutes from 2 hours 27 minutes. Among 35 to 49 year olds, TV viewing was down to 3 hours 34 minutes from 3 hours 48 minutes, while phone use rose to 3 hours 1 minute from 2 hours 43 minutes.

“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 percent), easy to use technology (56 percent), access to movies (52 percent), accessibility/search of desired content (51 percent), access to local programming (43 percent), resolution options (40 percent), ability to record and control playback (39 percent), access to specific network programs (38 percent) and access to live sports (35 percent).

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

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