TV trends evolve

16 June 2011

NEW YORK: Consumers in the US have increased the amount of time they spend watching TV, but the methods of accessing this material continue to evolve.

Research firm Nielsen reported that Americans enjoyed 22 minutes more television programming per month across the first quarter of 2011 than they did a year earlier.

"Americans are spending more time watching video content on traditional TVs, mobile devices and via the internet than ever before," it said.

The typical consumer now views linear TV for 159 hours a month, compared 26.2 hours for playing back material through a DVR.

Netizens were online for an average 25.5 hours during the same period, including 4.5 hours watching video, a figure falling to two hours ten minutes concerning mobile streaming of equivalent content.

At present, the monthly user base for web video stands at 142m, a 4.8% improvement annually, and equating to 75% of the connected population, or 49% of the entire broadcast audience.

Uptake on wireless handsets reached 28.5m people, although this constitutes a 41% expansion over the past year.

Considerable variations emerged by age, given participants of 65 years old and above dedicated 220 hours to traditional TV a month. This fell to 137 hours for 25-34 year olds and 108 hours for 18-24 year olds.

Time-shifting using DVRs consistently came in around the 30 hour mark for 25-64 year olds, measured against 27 hours for 65 year old-plus consumers, and 18 hours upon discussing 18-24 year olds.

However, the latter cohort easily registered the best total for internet video, at 7.7 hours.

Similarly, the 8.7 hours 12-17 year olds committed to watching video on mobile phones was nearly three hours ahead of any competing demographic.

Women proved more attached to traditional TV than men, but the reverse was true for the web, and habits largely balanced out when assessing wireless handsets.

Elsewhere, African-Americans recorded the highest totals for linear TV and mobile, while the Asian audience surpassed all other groups for watching web video, posting over 10 hours a month.

Adults in the 50-64 year old cluster make up the biggest share of the linear TV viewer base, on 25%. a status assumed by 35-49 year olds for online, at 27%, and 25-34 year olds on wireless devices, yielding 30%.

Despite the greater complexity facing the broadcast sector, Philippe Dauman, ceo of media giant Viacom, argued content owners are in a strong position, but must learn from platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

"It's not just putting TV on the internet," he said. "Consumers are influencing things. You need to have interactivity. You need to have more and more original programming."

Time Warner has recently rolled out an iPad app for its HBO network, part of the organisation's TV Everywhere initiative, and believes embracing new audience behaviour is essential.

"Don't be afraid of your children," said Jeff Bewkes, its chief executive.

"Put the TV on the internet devices, and don't change the business model and don't charge people extra. Make it easy for them to use it."

Chase Carey, chief executive of News Corp, Fox's parent company, has adopted an equally bullish stance in response to the "anytime, anywhere" trend reshaping popular attitudes.

"They are going to want a richer experience; social capabilities, interactive capabilities; we have to deliver those experiences to the customer," he said.

Broadcast network CBS has also made positive noises about its future prospects, in spite of the pressure on ad revenues resulting from the downturn and fragmentation.

"If you have the good content, people are going to want to buy it," Leslie Moonves, its chief executive, said.

Data sourced from Nielsen, Benzinga, Cable360, Los Angeles Times, Seeking Alpha; additional content by Warc staff