Changing Appointments: How Americans are Watching TV Now

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    Did you know that the phenomenon of time-shifted viewing has been around since the mid-1970s?  Of course, not many American homes at that time had access to the first VCRs (video cassette recorder) which were introduced in 1972 – probably because they were big, pricey, open-reel systems. 

    Then came the good ole’ Betamax recorders. Are you still holding onto one packed away somewhere in your basement or attic? Come on, you can tell me. Betamax recorders, of course, were edged out by VHS (video home system)  in the 1980s, which revolutionized home entertainment. We no longer had to stick around the house or rush home to watch our favorite TV shows and could rent any VHS we wanted from the neighborhood video store.

    Nielsen has observed and measured the ever-evolving changes in consumer media consumption and device ownership for decades.  Fast forward 30 or so years and Nielsen’s latest State of the Media Cross Platform Report examines the concept of “just how many hours are in a day,” measuring in-home streaming, in-home Internet and in-home television viewing behaviors. Re-thinking the concept of “how many hours are in a day” almost sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? 

    But, with time and place-based shifted viewing, we have the power to bend time and space to our will. We can watch our video content any time we choose and wherever we choose through our mobile devices (smartphones and tablets), our digital video recorders (DVR), expanded video on demand (VOD), or on live TV (or Internet).

    If the definition of “how many hours in a day” is being re-considered, we must also re-think the definition of “appointment viewing” as our video consumption world continues to evolve.  “Appointment viewing” traditionally means watching a program at the specific time it’s on the air.  Live sports are among the best example of this. I mean, really.  Barring an emergency or another commitment, who wants to watch the Super Bowl after it airs?  The commercials, that’s a different story. You may want to watch those. But now, thanks to our ever-changing technological advances, we can watch pretty much whatever we want, whenever we want, wherever we want.

    Most commercial deals are currently negotiated based on up to three days of viewing, with additional measurement of viewing of both the program and commercial occurring between three to seven days.  The report also includes a first-time pilot study with our participating Nielsen People Meter households, measuring their viewing behaviors beyond seven days – up to a 29-day period.  

    While the data confirms that most shows are indeed viewed live or in the first seven days, there is a growing audience between days eight to 29. This is valuable information for marketers and advertisers. In fact, even though just more than 5 percent of us watch our programs beyond that first seven days, that’s enough for shows to have added an entire rating point during this expanded period.

    The report also shows that even with all our choices of viewing devices, we Americans still most frequently choose traditional TV for watching our shows, spending more than 34 hours a week in front of the television in Quarter 3 last year. Nielsen insights show that third quarter-viewing was led by the Olympics coverage.  African-Americans continue to lead all other demographic groups in TV viewing, logging an average of 45 hours a week.  Comparatively, Asian-Americans watch the least amount of TV, about 24 hours a week.  We also over-index in watching video on game consoles and on our mobile phones monthly during that period.

    With insights from quarter three 2012, here’s how Americans stacked overall in the way we watched video content in hours and minutes per month:

    Traditional TV:                                                           148 hrs. 3 min.

    Watching time-shifted TV (all TV homes)        11 hrs. 30 min.

    Using DVD/Blu Ray                                            5 hrs. 17 min.

    Using a game console                                           6 hrs. 38 min.

    Via internet on a computer                                28 hrs. 58 min.

    Via a mobile phone                                              5 hrs. 25 min.

    As always, I invite you to visit Nielsen’s Website for more information on this study and other consumer information because knowledge is always power.  This is a prime example of how your choices are influencing an entire industry because you matter and you’ve got the power.

    Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to http://www.nielsenwire.com.

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