Are Young People Watching Less TV? (Updated – Q2 2013 Data)
by MarketingCharts staff
[Editor's Note: This is the latest quarterly update to this article, this time containing Q2 2013 data and trend analysis.] There’s a strong perception that with the rise of all things digital (mobile devices, social media use, etc.), youth have turned away from TV. An analysis of more than 2 years of data, including figures from Nielsen’s latest cross-platform report [download page], suggests, though, that while youth are indeed watching less TV, it’s not yet a precipitous decline.
Nielsen’s most recent study indicates that the 18-24 group, for example, watched a weekly average of roughly 21-and-a-half hours of traditional TV during Q2 2013, exactly one hour less than they did in Q2 2012. That equates to a little less than 9 minutes per day.
Of course, compared to two years ago (Q2 2011), the drop-off is more stark, at 24 minutes per day, almost the length of a sitcom episode. They’ve gone from close to 3-and-a-half hours a day on average to a little more than 3. While that’s a fairly significant decrease of 11%, it has happened over the course of 2 years.)
Traditional TV viewing by 18-24-year-olds has now dropped on a year-over-year basis for at least 6 consecutive quarters. Here’s what that decline looks like:
Q2 2013 vs. Q2 2012: 9 minutes per day
Q1 2013 vs. Q1 2012: 11 minutes per day
Q4 2012 vs. Q4 2011: 20 minutes per day
Q3 2012 vs. Q3 2011: 17 minutes per day
Q2 2012 vs. Q2 2011: 15 minutes per day
Q1 2012 vs. Q1 2011: 13 minutes per day
Those figures suggest that while TV viewing continues to fall, the declines might be slowing. Throughout 2012, the decrease in viewing grew larger with every passing quarter, while so far in 2013, the trend has reversed, with narrower gaps. The relatively small decreases in viewing might indicate that youth are watching less TV in favor of alternative options (such as over-the-top services), but are not rapidly abandoning traditional TV viewing.
In Q2, as in the previous 2 quarters, TV viewing patterns followed an age trend. The 18-24, 25-34, and 35-49 age groups all watched 45-60 minutes less TV per week, while the 50-64 and 65+ groups each watched more TV (by about 50 and 90 minutes, respectively).
The interactive chart below shows how TV viewing is trending down (sloping to the left) for younger viewers, while gradually increasing (sloping to the right) during the past year or so among older viewers.
Chart: Traditional TV Viewing, by AgeDescription: Traditional TV Viewing, by Age, Q1 2011-Q2 2013Tags: Nielsen-Marketing-Charts-Traditional-TV-Viewing-by-Age-Q1-2011-Q2-2013Author: charts powered by iCharts
A couple of notes regarding the chart: a vertical line chart is used here because it better portrays the varying trends among age groups than a typical horizontal line chart. Also, the trends are exaggerated by making the horizontal data range 20-50 hours per week rather than 0-50 hours per week.
Here’s what the data looks like as a horizontal line chart with no data ranges applied: the consumption decline is somewhat less pronounced.
It’s worth noting that the above figures are averaged among the entire population. When looking just at persons in TV households, though, the shift is similar, although not as pronounced. That is, on a monthly basis, 18-24-year-old TV viewers watched almost 2 hours less in Q2 than they did a year earlier. That translates to roughly 4 minutes less per day, which is a much narrower gap than Q1 (7.5 minutes per day less), Q4 2012 (19 minute drop-off) and Q3 2012 (15-minute decline).
That consumption is down much less among TV viewers than among the youth population as a whole suggests the growing presence of “cord-nevers” – people who have never subscribed to a pay-TV service and are instead getting all their programming options from OTT services. It also means that TV is maintaining a grip on its young viewers for the time being.
Looking at other age groups, 25-34-year-old viewers watched about 2 hours and 40 minutes less TV per month during Q2 2013 than during Q2 2012 (compared to 3 hours less in Q1, 30 minutes less in Q4, and 40 minutes less in Q3). The 35-49 demo watched about 2 hours less per month (after a 2 1/2 hour decline in Q1 and a 2 1/4 increase in Q4), while the 50-64 demo watched about 5-and-a-half hours more, and the 65+ group spent about 8 and a half hours more time watching TV.
That supports the trends seen with the average population data: there continued to be a decline in consumption among 18-24-year-olds in Q2, but older age groups watched more TV.
What About Teens?
Teens are often used as a barometer of things to come. So how is this potential leading indicator faring in terms of TV viewership?
In Q2, 12-17-year-olds watched a little more than 20-and-a-half hours of TV per week, the lowest amount of any age group. That represented a 58 minute year-over-year decline, an acceleration from a 52-minute decline during Q1 and a 46-minute drop in Q4.
Looking at year-over-year patterns, teen consumption of TV decreased:
by 58 minutes per week in Q2 2013;
by 52 minutes in Q1 2013;
by 46 minutes in Q4 2012;
by 98 minutes in Q3,2012;
by 47 minutes in Q2 2012; and
by 127 minutes in Q1 2012.
The interesting takeaway from there is that while consumption decreases have slowed among the 18-24 group, they’ve become more rapid for teens. What that portends is up for debate. One could argue that the data demonstrates that people tend to watch more TV as they get older – and that such a trend will hold true for teens as they age. Alternatively, the trends indicate that while viewing remains strong among older age groups, it’s tailing off with younger audiences. Particularly with the emergence of alternative viewing methods, one might expect that consumption decreases will continue among this age group.
Looking at ethnicity and race, African-Americans viewers continued to consume the most TV on a monthly basis in Q2, more than double the amount of time spent by Asians, who spent the least amount of time watching TV (206:47 vs. 86:37).
On a year-over-year basis, African-American viewers increased their traditional TV viewing by more than 4 hours per month during Q2. Hispanic viewers watched roughly 4 hours less per month, as did Asian Americans.
Overall consumption by TV viewers grew by roughly 1-and-three-quarter hours.
Among the total population (2+), TV consumption inched up by 2 minutes per week to 31 hours and 47 minutes (slightly more than 4-and-a-half hours per day). That was despite a decrease in the number of viewers, from 283.3 million to 282.7 million.
The average time spent per day watching Live TV, DVR playback, video games, and DVD playback was essentially flat on a year-over-year basis at 5 hours and 5 minutes. Live TV consumption, at 4 hours and 19 minutes, was basically flat from Q2 2012 (4:18), but down from Q2 2009 (4:23)