Web Use Hits US TV Consumption

11 February 2004

The rise of the internet in the US may be harming the effectiveness of TV advertising, judging by research from the UCLA Center for Communication Policy.

Speaking at a stateside branding conference, the Center's director, Jeffrey Cole, warned that the fourth annual UCLA Internet Report had significant implications for advertisers.

Previewing the study's findings, Cole revealed that consumers are increasingly surfing the web instead of watching TV. The average web user spends 11.8 hours a week online, more than half of which was previously devoted to watching TV. In all, said Cole, "Internet users watch 28% less TV than non-internet users."

In contrast, the internet is having little or no impact on the time spent sleeping, socialising or consuming print media.

The rise of broadband, now used by 36.8% of US web users, has also had an impact. Surfers with high-speed connections tend to go online in short bursts, rather than the extended, 30-minute sessions of dial-up customers. Unfortunately for advertisers, these short bursts tend to coincide with television commercial breaks.

Cole believes this trend may prompt media buyers to pay for airtime according to the ratings of commercials, rather than of the shows they are placed in -- a development that may be hastened by the rise of digital video recorders that allow viewers to skip ad breaks.

That said, Cole also pointed out that consumers still spend more time watching television than they do on the web. "TV is still the best game in town," he concluded. "I don't think you'll see one-third of media budgets going to interactive. But you don't hear as much about people making fun of the internet any more."

Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff