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Nielsen-TV-v-Online-Video-18-24-YO-Sept2013Online video has become an increasingly popular advertising channel, with many marketers shifting budgets from TV to fund those efforts (see here, here, and here). Such a response might imply that traditional TV consumption is falling off a cliff, succumbing to the soaring rise of online video. While TV and online video consumption are no doubt linked, looking only at their isolated trends can prove misleading, masking what continues to be a vast gap in consumption.

[Disclaimer: this is an agnostic look at consumption figures provided by a single source – Nielsen. Analysis – reported here by MediaPost – shows a broad disparity in online video consumption figures between Nielsen and comScore, with the latter estimating figures about 3 times higher than Nielsen. Nevertheless, even comScore’s numbers are far below estimates for TV viewing, whether those numbers come from Nielsen or Experian Marketing Services, which estimates TV consumption to be upwards of 27 hours per week.

Since original publication of this article, Nielsen has revised its smartphone video estimates, moving from a self-reported model to metered estimates. That has resulted in its mobile video viewing estimates being cut by a substantial amount.

The following analysis does not take into account attention paid to the medium, advertising effectiveness, or other such variables, for which one medium may be preferred to the other. It is simply an attempt to put in context the amount of time being spent with these various media.]

It’s true that TV’s audience has seemingly plateaued: according to Nielsen’s cross-platform reports (the Q2 2013 report can be downloaded here), the number of Americans aged 2 and up who watch traditional TV dipped by 0.2% year-over-year in Q2 2013, after declines of 0.1% in Q1, 0.2% in Q4 2012, 1.1% in Q3, and 1.7% in Q2. By contrast, the number of mobile subscribers watching video on a mobile device continues to grow by leaps and bounds, with the latest year-over-year increase at 36.5%. (Curiously, Nielsen’s figures show online video’s reach as being down by more than 7% year-over-year. Recent data from comScore indicates that reach has increased throughout this year.)

But viewing numbers continue to favor traditional TV by a large margin. Overall, Americans aged 2 and up watched 31-and-three-quarter hours of TV per week during Q2, or more than 4-and-half-hours per day. By contrast, Americans watched exactly one hour of video online or on a mobile phone per week during the same period, per Nielsen’s count.

It’s important to note also that Nielsen’s mobile viewing data is limited to mobile phones, not tablets. However, even the inclusion of tablets may not make a big dent in the data: a recent study suggested that tablets make up 5.7% of total online video viewing, versus 4.5% for mobile phones.

There is no doubt also that video viewing figures differ heavily when sorting by age group.  But the vast gap still holds true even among youth, who are gradually watching less TV. For example, during Q2, 18-24-year-olds watched roughly 21-and-a-half hours of traditional TV per week, according to Nielsen. How much time did they spend watching video on the internet or on a mobile phone, combined? Less than 2 hours.

Interestingly, the combined online viewing figure for 18-24-year-olds (1 hour and 54 minutes, to be exact) is down from Q1 consumption (2 hours and 32 minutes combined), although it’s slightly up from 1 hour and 45 minutes at the same time last year.

Here’s an interactive chart comparing traditional TV viewership with online video and mobile video viewing, using 9 quarters of data, averaged among the entire population (not just users of each medium):

Chart: Traditional TV vs. Online Video ConsumptionDescription: Traditional TV Viewing, by Age, Q1 2011-Q1 2013Tags: Nielsen-Marketing-Charts-Traditional-TV-Viewing-by-Age-Q1-2011-Q1-2013Author: MarketingChartscharts powered by iCharts

And here’s the same chart, limited to 18-24-year-olds:

Chart: Traditional TV vs. Online Video Consumption, Among 18-24-Year-OldsDescription: Nielsen: Traditional TV vs. Online Video, Among 18-24-Year-OldsTags: Nielsen-TV-v-Online-Video-18-24-YOAuthor: MarketingChartscharts powered by iCharts

The chart clearly shows a decline in traditional TV viewership among this demographic, coupled with a rise in monthly minutes spent watching online and mobile video. But it looks like it may be a while before online video seriously challenges traditional TV.

Other Findings:

  • Asian Americans on average spent the most time watching video on the internet (1 hour per week) in Q2, per Nielsen’s report, followed closely by African Americans (0:58) and Hispanics (0:47).
  • Among online video viewers, those same trends held true. Namely, Asian-American online video viewers spent an average of 12 hours and 23 minutes per month watching video on the internet, during Q2, with African Americans at exactly 9 hours and Hispanics at slightly more than 8-and-a-quarter hours. The overall average for online video viewers was just under 6-and-a-half hours, suggesting that Caucasians trail in online video viewing. These trends have held for some time.
  • African Americans watched the most mobile video in Q2, at 26 minutes per week, edging Asian Americans, who watched an average of 25 minutes per week. Hispanics watched an average of 22 minutes per week.
  • Among mobile video viewers, African Americans again were in the lead, at almost 7 hours per month, followed by Hispanics (about 6 hours per month) and Asian-Americans (5 hours and 41 minutes).

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