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Cable Technology Feature Article

November 25, 2008

Is TV Viewing Really Growing?

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

TV, Internet, and mobile usage continues to grow in the U.S., according to market research firm, Nielsen. But one has to wonder: since there are only so many hours in a day, and since most people you know seem to be busier than ever-- not just working adults but even young children-- what are people giving up to watch more TV? And are they really "watching”? If you have the radio or a television on, but are not in the room, are you "watching" or "listening"? Or are the devices merely powered up? If your PC is turned on all day, but you are in meetings in other rooms most of the day, does that mean you are using the Internet more?
One hint: “TV use is at an all-time high, yet people are also using the Internet more often; 31 percent of which is happening simultaneously,” Susan Whiting, Nielsen vice chairwoman, noted.
One might wonder, if 31 percent of the time users are multitasking, whether that actually constitututes "TV watching?" Maybe TV watching actually is declining, being relegated to "background" status while people do other things.
Since time and money pose hard constraints on behavior, one has to start questioning whether media consumption actually is growing as people add more forms of media. Logic suggests that real-time constraints must be having an effect. If 31 percent of the time both Internet and TV watching are happening at the same time, that sort of suggests a decline in TV involvement, at the very least, converting TV “watching" into something like radio listening. People mostly hear what is going on, but are doing something else. One suspects nearly all radio listening, in fact, occurs while people are doing something else.
In the third quarter of 2008, the average American watched approximately 142 hours of TV per month, five hours more than they watched in a typical month during the same period a year ago, Nielsen says. During the 2007 to 2008 television season, the average U.S. household consumed eight hours and 18 minutes of TV per day, a record high since Nielsen started measuring television in the 1950s.
Americans who used the Internet were online 27 hours a month, and people who used a mobile phone spent three hours a month watching mobile video. Men were more likely than women to watch via mobile phone, while women were more likely then men to watch video online.
DVR usage was up significantly, to 52.5 percent, in the third quarter of 2008, compared with the third quarter of 2007, Nielsen says. Americans spent more than six hours per month watching time-shifted TV, double the amount of time they spent watching video online.
Call me a skeptic, but most people seem to be too busy to be “watching” that much television.
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Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michelle Robart