Traditional TV penetration may have enjoyed an apparent rebound in the US last year – possibly as a result of the pandemic – but time spent viewing TV has been in structural decline for several years now. A new forecast from eMarketer calls for a significant milestone to occur in 2024, when the firm predicts that the average US adult will spend more time watching digital video on a daily basis than traditional TV.
Youth have led the migration away from traditional TV: as far back as late 2020, 18-34-year-olds were already spending 2.5x more time on their smartphones each day than watching traditional TV. For teens, meanwhile, cable TV has largely served as an afterthought to streaming options.
Yet TV viewing time overall across adults hasn’t fallen quite as precipitously, as a result of older adults continuing to prop it up. As such, while youth, for example, have spent almost two-thirds of their TV time with connected devices as opposed to traditional TV, that script has been essentially flipped for the population at large.
However, streaming services continue to become more widespread in US homes, as are connected TV devices. Along with that, people in general are defaulting to streaming services as their first viewing options, as they increasingly find their favorite shows on those services. And with half of streaming subscribers saying that those services have replaced traditional TV, it’s not hard to see where things are trending.
The forecast from eMarketer, then, is a result of falling time spent watching traditional TV alongside increases in time spent watching digital video (which includes viewing across all devices). Although daily time spent watching traditional TV (which includes live, DVR and other prerecorded video) across the adult population is expected to still exceed 3 hours this year (3:07, down from 3:16 last year), it is predicted to drop by 11 minutes on average next year (to 2:56) and by another 8 minutes in 2024 (to 2:48).
By that point (in 2024), average daily time spent with digital video will have grown to 2:53 minutes per day, surpassing traditional TV’s total.
In percentage terms, daily traditional TV viewing time is predicted to decline by 14.3% from 2021 to 2024, while digital video’s average daily time spent will grow by roughly 13.1% during the same period.
eMarketer also notes that while digital video won’t overtake traditional TV in time spent until 2024, digital video ad spending ($76.2 billion) is forecast to overtake TV ad spending ($68.35 billion) this year.