Monday, March 09, 2009

We Are Changing How We Watch TV

Long gone are the days when TV watching was relegated to the family room … Mom, dad, 2.5 kids and Fido all nestled around the 26” Philco watching “Bonanza in living color.” The folks who do the counting, The Nielsen Company, recently published a report about how we watch TV programs. Notice I did not say “watch TV.” It seems that the number of different “screens” used to watch our favorite programs continues to expand. The Nielsen report tracks viewing on traditional TV sets, either off air or cable/satellite-connected, as well as TV viewing on the Internet via computer and more recently on mobile devices like phones. There is no doubt that the way we watch is changing.

The lion’s share of watching is still done using the traditional TV set. For sure the “Rockwellian” image of mom, dad, the kids and Fido is no more, but the average American is still watching more than 5 hours a day. In many case watching is done in combination with other activities from washing the dishes to reading a book. Nevertheless, the time is counted.

What the data show regarding the use of the Internet to watch programs is fascinating. In one year the number of people watching on their computer increased 3.3%. That is 161 million people who watched an average of 22 minutes per month. While this amount of time watching pales in comparison to traditional TV viewing, the rate of growth is impressive. As more and more of your favorite full length TV programs are available on-demand on web sites like , the numbers should continue to increase. The increase in the number of home computers connected to high speed networks like Time Warner’s “Road Runner” or Cincinnati Bell’s DSL services allows more and more people to have a TV picture displayed on their computer that rivals the quality of the picture on a regular TV set..

So far, the viewing of TV programs and other video material on mobile devices is still quite small but just as is the case with Internet viewing, it is increasing. Many cell phone carriers offer a video option. Again our friends at Nielsen have tracked a very steep increase in the number of people watching TV on mobile phones. Over a period of one quarter the number increased by 9% with a estimated total of 11 million users.

Perhaps the most interesting data relates to “time shifting.” More and more of us are using PVR’s (Personal Video Recorders). Many cable and satellite companies offer PVR packages. Some of us use TIVO. No matter what device or service you use, having the ability to select programs in advance for recording and then watching them when you want is something that seems to be very attractive. Almost 1 out of 3 households now has one or more PVRs. The impact is stunning for advertisers who can have their commercials zapped when the program is watched on a PVR.

For sure, the age of the viewer impacts on the selection of the various viewing options with younger viewers opting for the PVR, Internet and increasingly, mobile options. These trends will be interesting to watch as the current population of “30 somethings” get older.

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