People are spending less time with TV

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We’ve become used to hearing the same old refrain from the TV industry: Despite the rise of digital media, people are watching more TV than ever.

Suddenly, however, it turns out that’s not true.

During the second quarter of this year, TV screen time actually dropped among the three major adult demos compared to the same time last year, according to Nielsen’s latest crossplatform viewing report.

That’s a big change from past reports, which noted an uptick in digital usage but steady or increasing TV screen usage by the older demos.

This marks the first time that all three demos have decreased their TV screen time from the previous quarter.

To be clear, these aren’t big declines, but they are notable because they reverse a longtime trend. And while digital video usage is soaring, it’s still well behind TV in time spent.

As you’d expect, the biggest TV screen dip came among 18-34s, who watched 4 hours and 17 minutes during second quarter, down 2 percent from 4 hours and 22 minutes during the same quarter in 2013. Since 2012, time watching TV has decreased 10 minutes for this demo.

Among adults 35-49 and 50-64, the declines were smaller, with both off 1 percent. The 35-49s watched 4 hours and 57 minutes, off 4 minutes from 2012 and 8 minutes from 2012.

And the 50-64s watched 6 hours and 12 minutes, down 6 minutes from 2013.

While the Nielsen study did not directly correlate gains in digital video to a decrease in TV screen time, it’s not hard to tie the two together. All three demos saw double-digit percentage gains in time spent with web video, and that time has to be taking away from other parts of the day, most likely other media consumption.

The 35-49s saw the largest surge in digital video usage, up 80 percent to 26 minutes per day and double what the amount they were viewing in 2012.

Among 50-64s, the jump was nearly as big, 60 percent, to 19 minutes per day.

And while 18-34s had the smallest jump, up 53 percent, they spend the most time with online video, an average 35 minutes per day.

Nielsen’s study also found that minorities ages 50-64 watch much more online video than the overall population. This is a bit of a surprise, since two minority groups, Hispanics and Asians, spend less time on TV screens than the overall population.

The study found that blacks ages 18-34 watch the most digital video, an average 48 minutes per day. They also watch more TV than other 18-34 demos.

Asians actually watch the most digital video of any group ages 50-64, which is very different from TV patterns, where Asians watch by far the least amount of television.

Greater access to technology is, of course, driving these gains too. No matter their age, practically everyone can access the web.

Nielsen found that 81 percent of all those surveyed have a personal computer with an internet connection, 72 percent have smartphones, and 39 percent have tablets.

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