Comparison of TV, Online Video and Smartphone Video Viewer Profiles

March 7, 2014

Nielsen-Age-Distribution-Multimedia-Video-Users-Mar2014How do TV, online and mobile video viewers compare in terms of age, household income and race? Nielsen offers some insights in its latest cross-platform report [download page], with the results mostly unsurprising but useful nonetheless. In short, TV viewers skew older than online video viewers, who in turn skew older than smartphone video users. And while TV’s audience also leans more towards lower-income groups than the online and smartphone video audiences, it’s just as racially diverse as the online video audience.

In terms of age, the adult (18+) TV audience is more than twice as likely to be aged 55 and older (45% share) than it is to be aged 18-34 (21% share). Those figures are basically flipped among the smartphone video viewing crowd, of whom 43% are aged 18-34 compared to 18% aged 55 and up.

Among the online video audience, viewers are equally as likely to be in the 55+ bracket as they are to be in the 18-34 bracket (30% share each).

It’s worth noting that these figures represent age distribution of viewers, rather than the percentage of each age group that watches each medium. So while only 8% of adult TV viewers fall in the 18-24 bracket compared to 19% of smartphone video viewers, there are likely more 18-24-year-old TV viewers than smartphone video viewers of that age. That’s because there were 286.7 million TV viewers aged 2 and up in Q4 2013, per Nielsen, compared to slightly more than 100 million smartphone video viewers. The age distribution also doesn’t take into account minutes spent with each medium, which largely favors traditional TV, something that apparently has just been discovered by the trade press. Moreover, as pointed out by TVB, Nielsen changed its mobile video viewing measurement system to a metered one rather than a self-reported one, which caused the estimate of average time spent with mobile video to plummet from a reported 5 hours and 23 minutes in Q4 2012 to just 1 hour and 23 minutes in Q4 2013.

Turning to the household income profile of video viewers, Nielsen shows that as of December 2013,

  • 52% of adult TV viewers had household incomes of less than $50k, compared to roughly 4 in 10 online video and smartphone video viewers; while
  • 16% of adult TV viewers had household incomes of at least $100k, versus 21% of online video viewers and 26% of smartphone video viewers.


While each audience is predominantly white, online video viewers skew more white (77% share) than the TV and smartphone video audiences (each at 70% share). Blacks are more heavily represented in the TV (17%) audience than the smartphone video (14%) and online video (12%) audiences, while Asians make up a greater proportion of smartphone video (6%) users than online video (4%) and TV viewers (3%).

As other research has previously noted, Hispanics over-index in smartphone video usage. According to Nielsen, they comprise some 21% of smartphone video users, versus 12% share for online video and TV.

As for mobile usage overall, the study indicates that 89% of smartphone users’ time spent on media is through mobile applications, compared to 11% through the mobile web. The ratio of app-to-mobile web usage for tablets is similar (81% vs. 19%).

Interestingly, female tablet users spend more time than their male counterparts on both apps and the mobile web. Among smartphone users, though, women lead slightly in mobile app consumption while both genders are almost exactly the same in terms of mobile web use.

The study also notes that smartphone users’ monthly time spent with mobile apps grew by about 7 hours year-over-year in Q4 (to 29:32 for men and 30:58 for women), while the amount of time they spent with the mobile web decreased.

Recent comScore data indicates that in January, for the first time, Americans spent more time accessing the internet via mobile apps than they did via desktops.


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