Media Universe Update: Smartphones Grow As Dominant Form of Internet Access

September 7, 2016

Nielsen-US-Media-Reach-in-Q12016-Sept2016While traditional TV (live + DVR/time-shifted TV) and AM/FM radio still have the widest monthly reach of any media among Americans, the biggest trend emerging from Nielsen’s latest look at the media universe (since updated to only analyze adults) is the internet’s reach – including video and social - moving more heavily to mobile.

For an in-depth look at the demographic composition of these and other online and offline media audiences, including TV, radio, print and social, see MarketingCharts’ report, US Media Audience Demographics 2015. A separate report from MarketingCharts looks at the purchase influence of advertising across these various media.

The figures in this article can be compared to previous installments of the Media Universe estimates covering Q3 2015 and Q4 2014.

Smartphones & Computers

The latest figures show that, at least in terms of internet reach, smartphone internet access among adults only has overtaken PC internet access among the entire 2+ population:

  • During Q1 2016, 191 million adults used apps or the web on a smartphone on at least a monthly basis, up from 176 million during Q3 2015; while
  • 183 million people aged 2 and older used the internet on a PC on at least a monthly basis, up slightly from 182 million in Q3 2015.

This is the first installment of Nielsen’s Media Universe estimates that we’ve seen pegging the adult smartphone internet audience as being larger than the entire PC internet audience. As recently as Q4 2014, the gap in favor of PC internet use was 34 million!

In fact, new data from comScore likewise shows that smartphone apps now represent half of all time spent online in the US, with this milestone having been reached in July. In total, smartphones comprised 57% of digital media consumption for the month, with tablets adding another 11%, such that mobile devices were more than two-thirds of total digital media consumption.

Meanwhile, the shift from PCs to smartphones is evident in the video viewing audience, too. Indeed, Nielsen’s figures show that smartphones are extending their lead on PCs as the most broadly used device for watching video. Specifically, in Q1 2016:

  • 151 million adult Americans watched video on a smartphone on at least a monthly basis, up by 18 million from Q3 2015; while
  • 124 million people aged 2 and older watched video on a PC, down 3 million from Q3 2015.

Social Media

The same pattern is evident in social media use, with the latest figures showing that social media has a larger monthly audience on smartphones than on PCs:

  • 176 million adults accessed social media via app or web on a smartphone during Q1 2016, up from 169 million in Q3 2015; versus
  • 113 million people aged 2 and older who accessed social media on a PC (down 2 million from Q3 2015).

TV Screen

The monthly traditional TV audience of 287 million (during Q1 2016) is up from 285 million during Q3 2015. Also on the TV screen, the latest figures show that:

  • The number of Americans (2+) viewing DVR/time-shifted TV jumped from 181 million in Q3 2015 to 200 million in Q1 2016;
  • The number using a DVD or Blu-Ray player dropped by 3 million to 122 million;
  • The number using a game console increased by 3 million, to 93 million; but
  • The number using a multimedia device continued to surge, up by 14 million to 80 million.

It’s worth noting that some of these changes might be due to seasonality; traditional TV viewing, for example, tends to be higher in the first quarter of the year than the fourth quarter.

AM/FM Radio

While research shows that online radio’s reach continues to grow, AM/FM radio‘s audience remains consistent and even slightly growing, averaging 263 million persons aged 12 and older on a monthly basis for the year-long period ending in late March 2016, compared to 259 million for the year-long period ending in mid-June 2015.

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