nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

NPD, Nielsen at loggerheads over annual video viewing change

Nielsen change in viewing by screen Q2 2016 Q2 2017

NPD says US adults are watching an hour more video in 2017 than they did in 2016. Nielsen says there has been no change at all. Who’s right?

NPD says adults watch 1 hour more per week

NPD asked consumers to estimate their weekly consumption across a range of video options. The company says that U.S. adults say they spent a full hour more per week watching video in August 2017 over August 2016. The big loser is traditional TV. Survey respondents say they watched 36 minutes less per week than one year ago. The big winner is SVOD which picks up 42 minutes of additional viewing per week. In all, adults 18 and over report watching 17 hours and 30 minutes of video per week through all sources.

NPD change in viewing 2016 2017NPD says that theater movie viewing did not change over the last year. Disc and PPV/VOD use also did not change.

Some of the viewing consumers reported could have been taking place simultaneously. For example, NPD says there is an increase of 24 minutes in watching movies and TV on computers, tablets, and smartphones. A viewer could be watching something on the TV at the same time.

Nielsen data suggests no change in viewing time

Nielsen data suggests a different picture of the change in consumer viewing habits over the last year. It tracks video consumption across screens and devices rather than services, as NPD does. However, the Nielsen data encompasses all the sources tracked by NPD, except for movie theater attendance. NPD reports this viewing as unchanged over the year.

The big loser in Nielsen’s figures is, once again, traditional television. U.S. adults 18+ watched 1 hour and 25 minutes less per week in Q2 2017 over the same quarter last year. The average adult watched 31 hours and 6 minutes of live and time-shifted television in Q2 2017. The other big loser is disc viewing. Adults watched 42 minutes per week in Q2 2017, 9 minutes less than the previous year.

Big winners in Nielsen numbers are streaming media players, which added 40 minutes per week. Computer video viewing increased 30 minutes, and smartphone video consumption was up 26 minutes per week.

According to Nielsen’s numbers, the total video consumed from all these sources did not change at all over the year. It remains at 37 hours and 13 minutes per week. Once again, you should remember some of the video consumption reported by Nielsen likely occurred at the same time.

Why the big difference between Nielsen and NPD?

Nielsen derives much of its viewing data from monitoring usage rather than asking consumers to estimate how much they watch. Consumers tend to underestimate actual TV viewing. For example, many would not include passive viewing (when the TV is turned on, but they are not paying attention) when asked to estimate viewing time. TV’s are operating for 8 hours or more a day in US households, so discounting passive viewing could lead to a large difference between estimates and actual viewing.

Estimated viewing times may be a better measure of active viewing. That is, where a viewer is paying attention and engaged with the video that is playing.

That said, it is hard to reconcile the fact that Nielsen sees no change in video viewing over the last year and the increase reported by NPD.

NPD and Nielsen do agree on one thing: TV viewing fell 4% over the last year. Moreover, though Nielsen does not report SVOD consumption directly, the big increase in streaming media player usage is likely largely due to SVOD services.

Why it matters

There are sometimes big differences between a how much a consumer says they are watching and their actual behavior.

New data from NPD and Nielsen highlight the difference between estimation and measurement in dramatic fashion.

Viewing times vary wildly and reported changes are also in disagreement.


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