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[By MC Editor, JC Lupis] Well, here we are again, examining the latest quarterly Total Audience report [download page] from Nielsen, this time covering data from Q1 2018. We’ve known for some time now that youth are watching less TV, but are the declines spreading to other age groups? And is there anything new in this latest study? Let’s take a look.

A quick note before we start: this (the Q1 2018 report) is the first one Nielsen has released in some time, not having publicly issued the Q3 or Q4 2017 reports. (We’re still working on obtaining them, if they were ever produced.) As a result this article will omit some of our typical longitudinal analyses as we’d be missing 6 months’ worth of data, but think of it as a more streamlined version of our earlier version…

You can visit this article to get that earlier, comprehensive, 6-and-a-half year analysis spanning from Q1 2011-Q2 2017. You can also purchase our even deeper analysis here in the form of a presentation that goes into more detail on TV trends (Q1 2012-Q1 2017) and derives a host of insights from the data.

The bad news is this latest edition no longer separates youth into 18-24 and 25-34 brackets, nor does it contain data for teens (12-17). So we can’t provide trend analyses for those age groups. That said, we’ll work with the wider age groups provided and re-run earlier data for trending purposes. The good news is this latest edition also contains a host of interesting data. So without further ado, let’s dive in. (A quick details on methodology can be found at the bottom of this article.)

What Are the Latest Trends Among Youth?

Nielsen’s most recent report indicates that Americans aged 18-34 watched a weekly average of about 16 hours of traditional TV during Q1 2018. What does that mean?

Translated to a per-day amount, the 18-34 population as a whole (not just TV viewers) averaged about 2-and-a-quarter hours of traditional TV viewing per day.

While that overall figure isn’t broken down by narrower age group, it’s safe to assume that older Millennials (25-34) are watching more than their younger counterparts. (The last time we ran this analysis, covering Q2 2017, 18-24-year-olds were watching less than 2 hours per day of traditional TV. It’s highly unlikely they’ve had a substantial increase since then…)

In terms of a year-over-year change, Q1’s figure represents a decline of 2 hours and 23 minutes per week, according to a review of the Q1 2017 Comparable Metrics report [download page].

In percentage terms, the amount of time 18-34-year-olds as a whole spent watching traditional TV (live and time-shifted) in Q1 2018 dropped by about 13% from the previous year. Needless to say, that’s a significant chunk. For comparison’s sake, the percentage decline in viewing from Q1 2016-Q1 2017 was 9.8%, so the decline has accelerated this year.

A quick note: the above data is averaged among the 18-34 population as a whole, meaning that it includes those (many) youth who don’t watch traditional TV. How many? Traditional TV reached 77% of 18-34-year-olds during the first quarter.

In Q1 2018 traditional TV users ages 18-34 (those 77%) spent a little more than 26 hours per week watching traditional TV. That works out to about 3 hours and 45 minutes per day.

For comparison, In Q1 2017, Nielsen’s Comparable Metrics report indicates that 18-34-year-old users watched 251 minutes per day, which equates to 4 hours and 11 minutes per day.

So even viewers of traditional TV are watching less, to the tune of close to an 11% decline. Not quite as severe as the broader population, but quite a drop nonetheless. Of note, it’s a very slightly smaller drop then from Q1 2016 to Q1 2017, when viewing time among traditional TV users ages 18-34 fell by 11.3%.

What About Other Age Groups?

Traditional TV tends to have an older audience composition than some other media – and has been slowly trending that way for some time. (Further analysis of that shift in this report.)

So the behaviors of Gen Xers (who could be expected to watch more at this life stage) and Boomers (now a core audience) are also very much worth analyzing. Luckily, we can go further back with the trends for these age groups, as the following age ranges have remained constant in these reports over some time.

Age Group: 35-49

The latest study indicates that as a whole, 35-49-year-olds watched about 29 hours of traditional TV per week, or about 4 hours and 8 minutes per day.

Compared to the year-earlier period, traditional TV viewing among 35-49-year-olds declined by 1 hour and 36 minutes per week, or close to a quarter-hour per day.

In percentage terms, traditional TV viewing among 35-49-year-olds fell by 5.2% year-over-year. Needless to say, while it’s not abandonment on the level of Millennials (if you want to call it that), it’s nonetheless a noteworthy decrease.

Looking further back, the amount of traditional TV watched by 35-49-year-olds as a whole has declined by 15.5% over the course of 5 years.

Age Group: 50-64

Overall, 50-64-year-olds watched 43-and-a-quarter hours of traditional TV per week during Q1 2018, translating to a hefty 6 hours and 11 minutes per day.

Compared to the year-earlier period, traditional TV viewing among 50-64-year-olds declined by just 14 minutes per week, or just 2 minutes per day. Obviously, the industry is holding onto this demographic a lot more successfully…

In percentage terms, traditional TV viewing among 50-64-year-olds was flat, with just an 0.5% year-over-year decline.

Looking further back, the amount of traditional TV watched by 50-64-year-olds as a whole has declined by just 2% over the course of 5 years. Consumption patterns appear to be steady for this age group despite the advent of streaming options and their growing popularity with this bracket.

Age Group: 65+

During Q1 2018, the 65+ demographic watched almost 54 hours of traditional TV per week, which works out to an impressive (if you’d like to call it that) 7 hours and 24 minutes per day.

Compared to the year-earlier period, traditional TV viewing in the 65+ group was mostly flat, actually slightly increasing by 3 minutes per week. Once again, the industry is holding onto this demographic a lot more successfully, another measure of how the industry’s audience is trending older over time.

In percentage terms, traditional TV viewing in the 65+ group was flat.

Looking further back, the amount of traditional TV watched by the 65+ demographic as a whole has increased by about 5% over the course of 5 years.

Traditional TV vs. TV-Connected Devices

Here’s a fun new comparison: this newest report from Nielsen provides a look at how much daily time people are spending with TV-connected devices, defined as DVD/Blu-Ray Devices, Game Consoles, and Internet-Connected Devices (including streaming media players and smart TVs).

As a result, we can compare the time spent with TV-connected devices to the time spent watching traditional TV (h:mm) for each age group.

(18-34) Connected TV: 1:15 per day. Traditional TV: 2:17
(35-49) Connected TV: 0:51 per day. Traditional TV: 4:08
(50-64) Connected TV: 0:30 per day. Traditional TV: 6:11
(65+) Connected TV: 0:18 per day. Traditional TV: 7:24

As the data indicates, there are huge differences by age group in terms of viewing behavior, with traditional TV time far greater among older audiences and connected TV time (while still trailing traditional TV) much higher among younger groups.

Here’s the data in chart format:

Comparing Races/Ethnicities

While the focus of this article is on age groups, let’s take a moment to compare the behaviors of African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian-Americans, per the report’s data. Because they’re quite different…

Take for example, traditional TV, which averaged in Q1 (hh:mm):

  • 46:17 per week among Black adults (6:37 per day);
  • 24:14 per week among Hispanic adults (3:28 per day); and
  • 16:54 per week among Asian-American adults (2:25 per day).

As such, African-American adults watch almost 3 times more traditional TV per day than Asian-American adults, and almost twice as much as Asian-American adults.

In case you’re wondering how much of that is attributable to reach (with these figures being averaged among the entire population), traditional TV’s reach averaged 90% among Black Americans, 88% among Hispanic Americans and 74% among Asian-Americans in Q1.

So a small part of the discrepancy is due to Asian-Americans being less likely to watch traditional TV, but even viewers are watching much less than African-Americans.

How Much Time Does Everyone Spend With Video?

OK, a couple more ways to look at video viewing behavior before we wrap this up. The Nielsen report also totals up the time spent with video per day, which includes traditional TV, TV-connected devices, video on a computer, video on smartphones and video on tablets. (The last two are limited to video-focused apps/web, such as HBO GO, as opposed to time spent watching video on Facebook, which is excluded.)

The grand total? A massive 6 hours per day spent consuming video content by the average adult. (Or 5 hours and 57 minutes if you prize specifics.)

Here’s an interesting stat: video time has gone up in the past couple of quarters, after having averaged 5:46 per day in Q4 2017 and 5:27 per quarter in Q3.

And last but not least, if you’re wondering, 18-34-year-olds as a whole spent more time in Q1 2018 using the internet on smartphones than watching traditional TV. A sign of the changing times…

More to come with the next report’s release.

A quick note on methodology. The above data in large part concerns “traditional TV” viewing, which averages out all live and DVR/time-shifted TV viewing (such as video-on-demand) during each quarter. As such, it is a measure of legacy TV viewing on set-top boxes, and does not include viewing via connected TV devices.

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