Looking at the latest Nielsen numbers you might convince yourself that live TV viewing is holding up well against online competition. Dig deeper and the future of live television looks bleak, and the DVR even bleaker.
Live TV seems to be holding up well
On the face of it, Nielsen data shows that live television viewing seems to be holding up well against mobile and broadband video competition. The average person in the U.S. watch 30 hours and 42 minutes of television a week (4 hours 23 minutes a day) in Q4 2013. Three years later, in Q4 2016, live viewing has fallen 11%, to 27 hours and 18 minutes (down 29 minutes a day.)
A little of that has transferred to a time-shifted viewing, mainly through a DVR. Time spent watching time-shifted TV increased 24 minutes a week, or just over 3 minutes a day.
Keeping in mind the explosive growth of SVOD over that same period, it might be surprising that live TV viewing hasn’t suffered more. The number of people saying they use SVOD services has increased from 45.3% to 63.8% over the same three-year period.
Digging beneath the surface of these numbers reveals a very different picture.
Live TV usage dying among the young
If you’ve noticed an increase in the number of reverse mortgage and Depends ads on TV, there’s a very good reason. People over 50 years of age watch twice as much live television as those under 34 years old.
The decline in live viewing among people under 34 years old has been dramatic over the last three years. 12 to 24-year-olds watched a third less live television in Q4 2016 as they did in Q4 2013. Children 12 to 17-years-old now watch just 1 hour and 46 minutes a day, down nearly an hour a day since 2013.
Those 25 to 34-years-old learned their video viewing habits before the DVR. In the 1990s, live television was a big part of their daily lives. However, even they are leaving the world of channel television behind. Live viewing in that age group has fallen 21% in the last three years. They spend 2 hours and 44 minutes a day watching linear television, down 42 minutes a day.
DVR usage is an oldies thing!
I mentioned that some of the decline in live television has transferred to time-shifted viewing. While that may be true for the average adult, that is not true at all for those under 34 years old. All the increase in DVR viewing is confined to those over 35. 25 to 34-year-olds watched 19% less, and 12 to 17-year-olds watched 17% less.
Those between 12 and 24-years-old watch time-shifted content just 13 minutes per day, and DVR usage is falling. Those 50 and over watch 40 minutes per day, and DVR usage is still increasing.
The writing is on the wall
Looking at this data is it any wonder that youth oriented live television is struggling. Viacom is floundering as the audience for channels like MTV, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon moves online. For example, MTV lost 30% of its audience between 2014 and 2016.
Why it matters
A cursory look at Nielsen numbers shows only a modest decline in live viewing over the last three years.
Looking at detailed data reveals that the young simply don’t watch live TV much anymore.
It also shows that the DVR is hardly used at all by viewers under 24 years of age.