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Nearly 31% of people who went online at home in October were also watching television simultaneously, demonstrating that web surfing and TV watching are complementary behaviors, according to research from The Nielsen Company‘s new TV/Internet Convergence Panel.

The Convergence Panel, which electronically measures both television and Internet usage in the same homes, also found the heaviest users of the internet are among the heaviest viewers of television. The top fifth of Internet users spend more than 250 minutes per day watching television, compared with 220 minutes of television viewing for people who do not use the internet at all.

The reverse of this phenomenon is also true. Consumers who watch the least amount of TV have the lowest usage levels for the internet, Nielsen said.

Additional Convergence-Panel findings:

  • Roughly 50% of the Convergence Panel panelists had viewed some streaming content online. The demographics streaming the most included female teens (82%), male teens (64%), men age 18-34 (57%) and men age 35-54 (55%).
  • Nearly 60% of panelists and more than 80% of people who watched TV and used the internet had simultaneous sessions – watching TV and being online at the same minute. This group tends to be very heavy users of both TV and internet.
  • Teens are the most likely demographic to have simultaneous TV/internet usage, but Adults 35-54 have the most simultaneous usage minutes.
  • About 4% of total television viewing occurs when consumers are also using the internet.

“With our Convergence Panel we can now, for the first time, observe what could only be guessed at before – how television viewing and internet usage interact and affect each other,” said Howard Shimmel, SVP, client insights, The Nielsen Company. “It is too early to draw any firm conclusions about behavior but the early trends seem to indicate that online usage is complementing, not substituting for, traditional television viewing.”

About the research: The Nielsen TV/Internet Convergence Panel is the first panel to use Nielsen technology and methodology to directly measure the interaction between TV and internet by the same people in the same household. The sample consists of nearly 3,000 people in more than 1,000 households who were either previously part of Nielsen’s live national TV sample and have agreed to continue to be monitored by Nielsen, or new homes installed specifically for convergence research. Results were from October 2008.

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