TV Viewing Is Down As Internet Usage Continues To Rise? Not Exactly

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TV viewing is the highest it has ever been. The average American watches about 142 hours of TV a month with an average of 8 hours and 18 minutes per day – a record high since Nielsen begun measuring television in 1950s.

That’s a whole lot of Lost and Seinfeld re-runs, but that is the news from MarketingVox today in the news item, TV-Watching Rises to All-Time High. The findings are available in the, A2/M2 Three Screen Report, and they also show that the Web is doing quite well (average is 27 hours per month) as is mobile video (average is 3 hours per month). But, still, that seems like an awful lot of television and it makes a fairly strong case for why TV ad spending continues on the way it has been (much to the chagrin of us Digital Marketing folks).

There is still some more good news when it comes to technology and the ever-changing landscape. DVR usage continues to rise and American’s spent more than 6 hours per month watching TV that was time-shifted. On top of that 31% of those watching all of that TV were also online at the same time.

Where does all of this net out? Most armchair pundits are going to look at how advertising is performing, but there is a bigger issue. It’s the content. How are television studios going to produce really compelling and powerful content in this world of distraction and timeshifting? They are going to have to answer to the advertisers because even as the numbers and usage grows, it would seem that the viewers’ attention span is decreasing or being divided amongst many channels (if they are even being watched at all – that DVR usage is up 58% from quarter to quarter).

Wouldn’t it be cool to know what percentage of people are online and what percentage of people are also using their mobile devices at the same time?

Wouldn’t it be cool to know how many media platforms are being used at once? How many people have you seen who have the TV on but so is their iPod?

The fragmentation of media is going to change advertising. There is no doubt about it and we’re seeing it happen already, but the stakes are highest for the content producers. We’re going to see hit TV shows that are produced and posted to YouTube only with audiences, ratings and feedback (including how many times it is embeded) that will rival those of the blockbusters. We’re going to see the producers of mobile content wise up to these opportunities and cut their own media deals (product placement, sponsorship, affiliates, etc…) to grow their brands and programming. It’s going to get a lot more confusing and dirty in the coming years until the platforms have more interoperability and somebody figures out a new model that works in a world that is moving quickly away from one TV show for thirty million people to thirty million TV shows for a billion and a half people.

What are your thoughts on the future of TV?


  1. Mitch, “the Fragmentation of media” is a very good point.
    Do you think we – marketers/advertisers/media geeks – will have hard times until we get a kind of standardization of metrics and interoperability of any platform?

  2. How can it be an average of 8 plus hours a day on the boob tube? It’s funny- some clients have asked me what kind of person will participate in their social networking program… “Who has the time for all this conversation anyway” Then a stat like this shows up. Crazy

  3. I’m definitely in the “31% of those watching all of that TV were also online at the same time” camp. When not time-shifting, I use my laptop during the commercial breaks.
    There is something I noticed on Hulu the other day that was particularly interesting. Before I watched an episode of “The Office” I was given the opportunity to choose which format I wanted the commercials in. The ads could be seen during the regular breaks in 15 second spots or it could be watched as a one minute pre-roll. I chose the latter. I found my self more apt to watch the Hyatt commercial because I was given a choice of delivery options.
    With dialogue, relationship, and community as the primary objectives in today’s climate, I felt more willing to give time to the commercial because I was “asked” how I wanted it. I was able to “customize” my viewing experience instead of having some producer do it for me.

  4. As they watch more tv, they get fatter too. Hehe.
    But seriously, it’s interresting considering the fact that people watch also MORE video online.
    For advertisers, and start-up in the video on the web, it’s mind boggling.
    Good resume here. Cheers.

  5. I watch zero hours of live TV but do watch almost 1.5 hours of PVR’d TV a day.
    To avoid people like me fast forwarding the ads, I saw the characters of 30 ROCK in a commercial for American Express –adveditorial–but it worked, I paused and saw what was going on–thinking its part of the show.
    Its still interruption marketing and its still not relevant to me.

  6. I’m like many people who doesn’t “watch” TV the way I used to.
    Then: Plop down on the couch and watch TV, grabbing the remote on commercials
    Now: Sit on the couch with the TV on, while also working/chatting/Twittering on my laptop or mobile phone. And the commercials? If I’m not watching on DVR, I usually skip grabbing the remote and focus in on my laptop/phone during the ads.
    I don’t think I’m that untypical, and advertisers have to figure out a way to get *my* attention.
    Bryan Person | @BryanPerson

  7. TV is still very good for special unique event. 2008, with the Olympic Games and the Obamania was a gift for a lot of networks, it’s not so surprising to have so many people in front of their TV.
    And if there is a fragmentation of media we should “fragment” the business model too.

  8. I don’t get this either. Here is the direct quote from the news item on MarketingVox:
    “The “A2/M2 Three Screen Report,” which details key findings from the research, also states that the average time a US home used a TV set during the 2007-08 TV season was 8 hours and 18 minutes per day, a record high since Nielsen started measuring television in the 1950s.”
    What am I missing? Are they assuming that an average US home has two people – hence 8 hours?

  9. Hey Pasquale, I just realized that you asked me a question and I did not respond. Sorry about that.
    I think metrics are definitely going to matter, but I also think they are going to be dramatically different from the ones we have seen to date. I also think that the saturation is going to become even more of an issue and the aggregators are going to start playing a very serious role in what gets mass audience attention.

  10. *stands on soapbox*
    If you watch TV, you’re wasting life.
    *gets off soapbox*
    sorry, it is vapid entertainment, the equivalent of mental fast food. enjoy it if you do but you’re numbing your brain.

  11. It would be interesting to know the survey demographics on television usage. I suspect the test audience is mostly baby boomer age.
    With the shape of the US economy it is no surprise that television viewing has grown. The people who once might have been out around the town are now home cocooning in front of a TV set. All this suggests is that people have more free time and less money to spend.
    Television will eventually collapse in to a digital medium. The upcoming elimination of analog broadcasting will mark the beginning of the end. Once everyone is digital, cable suppliers will begin to re-shape the content they deliver. The concept of a television channel will slowing fade away as content is grouped into categories and tags are added to help search engines bookmark your preferences. Commercials or disruptive 60 second annoyances replaced with product placements in shows. Viewers will be able watch, interact and shop simultaneously. I’m sure at some point we won’t have to wait for the Fedex truck, goods will materialize from a transporter beam!

  12. “…average of 8 hours and 18 minutes per day – a record high since Nielsen begun measuring television in 1950s.”
    That blows me away. I don’t understand how people could possibly watch that much tv

  13. …Yikes…142hrs a month??? Are they assuming that the average American doesn’t work? Their unemployment rate is around 6%. Me, personally, I barely watch TV anymore, but I could easily spend 5hrs on the internet at night, especially working on my blog. I agree with Adam who say’s TV is nothing buy mental fast food. I just can’t find anything intellectual or worth watching on TV anymore. It’s a waste of my waking hours..and electricity!

  14. I know it happens some already, but maybe they will get more clever about writing the advertising into the script and integrating it into the scenes. Too many people tune out, go to the bathroom, are online, or whatever during commercials, or they use their DVR’s to just skip them. You have to reach people when they’re paying attention.

  15. I watch less TV than i used to, but saying that i watch stuff on the internet more.
    I think its heading more towards watching stuff on the computer than on a TV.
    Nice question

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