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Younger adult viewers are 2.5 times more likely than older ones to be technologically proactive (e.g., resort to the web or DVRs) in catching up on TV shows they’ve missed, with more than half of older viewers doing nothing or waiting for reruns if they miss an episode, according to a Nielsen Company study.

Some 56% of 18-34-year-old adults use new technologies such as digital video recorders, the internet, video on demand and MP3 players to follow their favorite series, compared with 21% for viewers over age 55, the study found.

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“Younger viewers have been faster than older generations to adopt new television options, but since technology adoption is increasing within all age groups, this study gives us a glimpse into a future when all viewers will take more initiative to catch up on shows they have missed,” said Steve McGowan, Nielsen SVP, Client Research Initiatives. “This will have tremendous implications on how networks schedule and distribute their programming.”

The study also found that, when they did go online to watch streaming television over the internet, more viewers (50%) reported going to ABC.com than any other site. The next most popular sites were NBC.com and CBS.com, at 41% and 37%, respectively:

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Among the other highlights from the full study:

  • Among all respondents, findings were fairly similar among men and women, as well as by income. However, a slightly larger proportion of men (32%) relied upon the DVR to stay current (27% for women).
  • DVR ownership is second only to age in how aggressive respondents are to staying current with their favorite shows. Nearly 60% of all DVR owners use the device to stay current. (DVR penetration among the respondents was more than twice as large as in Nielsen’s national TV panel: 46% vs. 20%).
  • The single largest factor that drove awareness of internet-based streaming alternatives was not whether there was high-speed internet access at home but whether the respondents had iTunes loaded on their home PCs.
  • 25% of respondents said they had watched a full-length episode streamed online in the past three months, led by 18-34-year-olds (39%). Only 11% of older (55+) respondents said they had done so.
  • Respondents were more likely to network websites to watch full episodes, even if they had iTunes on their computer.

About the data: The Nielsen study (pdf) was conducted in October 2007 with more than 1,500 adults at the CBS Television City research facility in Las Vegas.

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