How Does Live TV Consumption Measure Up Against Recorded Content?

April 25, 2014

Nielsen-TV-Viewing-Time-by-Programming-Option-Apr20147 in 10 TV households in the US use at least one on-demand service, whether that be a DVR, a Netflix subscription, or video-on-demand (VOD) from a cable or telco provider, according to recent data from Leichtman Research Group (LRG). Still, a recent Ipsos study found that live TV remains the typical viewing method for most Americans. So how much time do pay-TV viewers estimate spending with live TV as opposed to other programming options? Based on a survey of consumers with subscription cable service, a new Nielsen study [download page] offers some answers.

Some 79% of respondents indicated that they watch at least one hour per day of regular (i.e. live) TV programming. By comparison, just 28% watch pre-recorded TV at that frequency. Only 13% spend that much time watching streaming content, and fewer than 1 in 10 (9%) watch on-demand TV that regularly.

In fact, while just 4% of respondents claimed to never watch regular TV programming, that figure leapt to 44% for pre-recorded TV, 53% for on-demand TV, and 56% for streaming content.

To put the discrepancies in context, respondents were 50% more likely to be spending at least 4 hours per day watching regular TV programming than they were to be spending at least 1 hour per day watching pre-recorded TV (42% vs. 28%). And they were almost as likely to be spending at least 10 hours a day watching live TV as they were to be spending at least one hour a day streaming (10% and 13%, respectively).

The big gaps in viewing are likely due in part to lesser adoption of on-demand services. While the LRG data indicated that 7 in 10 households have at least one on-demand service (or “convenience option,” as Nielsen terms it), just 11% were found to be using each of the three. Also, Motorola research suggests that Americans don’t end up watching 41% of their recorded content.

Still, there’s no doubt that consumers are watching TV programming other than live on TV. Four in 10 cable subscribers responding to the Nielsen survey reported using desktops and laptops to view TV programming, and a significant portion also reported watching programming via game consoles (19%), tablets (17%) and mobiles (16%). What’s more, 3 in 10 are using a desktop or laptop as a second-screen on a daily basis, as are 16% for smartphones and 14% for tablets.

In other study results, 35% of respondents indicate that their households spend at least 21 hours online each week, up from 27% in 2011.

Looking at provider switching, the research indicates that:

  • 9% have switched TV providers in the past 6 months, with the leading reason being a better price (for 35% of switchers);
  • 9% have switched internet providers, with a better price (31%) again the leading reason among those; and
  • 7% have switched mobile provider, a plurality 44% of whom were motivated by a better price.

About the Data: Nielsen Technology Behavior Track is a survey conducted annually, collecting consumer-level data on behaviors related to home technology use. Approximately 32,000 respondents, sampled to be nationally representative, participate.

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