A Google-commissioned study by Nielsen found that more adults watch YouTube on mobile than any other cable network alone during primetime. People watching on mobile are trading passive lean-back TV viewing for active lean-forward smartphone engagement.
YouTube is more popular than cable (0:27)
The Nielsen findings reveal two very interesting points which are worth exploring.
The first is that more adults are watching YouTube than any other cable network. The transition to online viewing has been happening for quite some time however it comes as a surprise that users find YouTube more appealing than any of the usual cable networks. YouTube has very little original programming or big-budget series. So, what are users watching?
According to the data, the top categories people watch are comedy, music, entertainment/pop, and “how to” videos. This type of content differs significantly from typical mainstream television, such as dramas, reality tv, and sports. Users seem to be preferring short comedy skits, music videos, celebrity interviews and educational videos. So why have viewers shifted their focus from the traditionally popular TV genres to YouTube shorts? The answer may lie in the device they are using, the smartphone.
Mobile viewing begets attention (1:25)
3-of-4 users watch YouTube on their mobile phone during primetime. While the popularity of YouTube might not be a surprise the way, people are watching it could be. Typically, at the end of a long workday, people slump on the couch and watch whatever takes their fancy on television. For many people, this behavior seems no longer to be the case. More users are pulling out their phones instead.
This new habit creates new viewing preferences. There are two modes in which we typically consume content: lean-forward mode, and lean-back mode.
Lean-back mode usually involves relaxing on a couch or lounge chair, passively watching video on a television screen. In this mode, we are not actively engaged with what we are watching. We are entertaining ourselves, relaxing, and killing time.
Lean-forward mode, however, involves exploring a passion, finding information about something or someone, or learning how to do something. In this mode, we are usually sitting upright and using our mobile phones. Users are more actively engaged in this circumstance. The study shows that “YouTube mobile users are 2x as likely to pay close attention while watching YouTube compared to TV users while watching TV.”
However, this begs the question: Why do consumers choose to be in lean-forward mode during primetime when they could be relaxing?
Is mobile taking over primetime? (2:50)
There could be many reasons for the move to watch on smartphones during primetime. Maybe the increase in mobile phone use has caused our habit to spill over into time usually spent relaxing. Maybe viewers enjoy an increase in attention and engagement. Maybe the content YouTube has is more appealing. Alternatively, maybe when users sit on the couch, they are simply too lazy to reach for the remote.
The specific reasons why we are spending primetime on our phones instead of the television are not clear. All we know is that we are.
Users are watching television and mobile video (3:23)
Despite the rise of mobile video viewing during primetime the majority of Americans still spend a lot of time watching cable. This coupled with the fact that most people are using a variety of different devices to consume content show they are using both television and their mobile phone to do so. We at nScreenMedia think that many of these users are using them at the same time during primetime.
What marketers should pay attention to is that when a user has both the television and his phone on the phone will take up more of his or her attention.