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[By MC Editor, JC Lupis] Well, here we go again, taking a look at the latest quarterly Total Audience report [download page] from Nielsen, this time covering data from Q2 2018. We’ve known for at least a couple of years now that youth are watching less TV, but are these shifts spreading to other age groups? And is there anything new in this latest study? Let’s dive in.

A quick note before we start: because Nielsen did not publicly issue the Q3 or Q4 2017 reports, we’ve moved to this new format to start a new longitudinal analysis. You can visit this article to get that earlier, comprehensive, 6-and-a-half year analysis spanning from Q1 2011-Q2 2017. You can also purchase our even deeper analysis here in the form of a presentation that goes into more detail on TV trends (Q1 2012-Q1 2017) and derives a host of insights from the data.

The Q2 report – like the Q1 version – no longer separates youth into 18-24 and 25-34 brackets, opting instead for the 18-34 grouping. On the positive side, it does reintroduce some data for teenagers, allowing for some year-over-year comparisons there. Without further ado, let’s dive in. (Quick details on methodology can be found at the bottom of this article.)

What Are the Latest Trends Among Youth?

Nielsen’s most recent report indicates that Americans aged 18-34 watched a weekly average of just over 14 hours of traditional TV during Q1 2018. What does that mean?

Translated to a per-day amount, the 18-34 population as a whole (not just TV viewers) averaged 2 hours of traditional TV viewing per day.

While that overall figure isn’t broken down by narrower age group, it’s safe to assume that older Millennials (25-34) are watching more than their younger counterparts. (The last time we ran this analysis with this age group broken down, covering Q2 2017, 18-24-year-olds were watching less than 2 hours per day of traditional TV. It’s highly unlikely they’ve had a substantial increase since then…)

In terms of a year-over-year change, Q2’s figure represents a decline of 2 hours per week, according to a review of the Q2 2017 Comparable Metrics report [download page]. That’s down from a 2:23 year-over-year decline witnessed in Q1.

In percentage terms, the amount of time 18-34-year-olds as a whole spent watching traditional TV (live and time-shifted) in Q2 2018 dropped by about 12.3% from the previous year. Needless to say, that’s a significant chunk – about one-eighth of viewing time. For comparison’s sake, though, the percentage decline in viewing from Q2 2016-Q2 2017 was 13.3%, so the decline has slightly decelerated this year. All told, then, 18-34-year-olds continue to watch less TV, but the year-over-year drop-off was a little smaller than in Q1 and also than this time last year.

A quick note: the above data is averaged among the 18-34 population as a whole, meaning that it includes those (many) youth who don’t watch traditional TV. How many? Traditional TV reached 76% of 18-34-year-olds during the second quarter (compared to 87% of the adult population).

In Q2 2018 traditional TV users ages 18-34 (those 77%) spent a little more than 16 hours per week watching traditional TV. That works out to about 2 hours and 18 minutes per day.

For comparison, In Q2 2017, Nielsen’s Comparable Metrics report indicates that 18-34-year-old users watched about 151 minutes per day, which equates to 2-and-a-half hours per day.

So even viewers of traditional TV are watching less, to the tune of an 8.9% decline. That’s not quite as severe as the broader population (and it’s a smaller drop than observed in Q1), but it’s still a noticeable decline nonetheless. Also, it’s a considerably smaller drop than from Q2 2016 to Q2 2017, when viewing time among traditional TV users ages 18-34 fell by 15%. So the declines have mitigated a little for both 18-34 viewers and the population at-large.

What About Other Age Groups?

Traditional TV tends to have an older audience composition than other platforms – and has been slowly trending that way for some time. (Further analysis of that shift in this report.)

So the behaviors of Gen Xers (who could be expected to watch more at this life stage) and Boomers (now a core audience) are also very much worth analyzing. Teens are also worth a look as potential leading indicators.

Age Group: 12-17

The latest study indicates that as a whole, teens watched about 10 hours and 12 minutes of traditional TV per week, or about 1-and-a-half hours per day.

Compared to the year-earlier period, traditional TV viewing among 12-17-year-olds declined by 1 hour and 35 minutes per week, or close to a quarter-hour per day.

In percentage terms, traditional TV viewing among teens fell by a hefty 13.4% year-over-year. If you’re keeping count, that’s a bigger drop than was seen among 18-34-year-olds.

Looking further back, the amount of traditional TV watched by 12-17-year-olds as a whole has declined by slightly more than 50% over the course of 5 years (since Q2 2013). Let’s just say that again: the amount of time teens are spending watching live and time-shifted TV has been cut in half over the past 5 years.

Age Group: 35-49

In Q2 2018, 35-49-year-olds watched a little less than 26 hours (25:48) of traditional TV per week, or about 3 hours and 41 minutes per day.

Compared to the year-earlier period, traditional TV viewing among 35-49-year-olds declined by 1 hour and 11 minutes per week, or about 10 minutes per day.

In percentage terms, traditional TV viewing among 35-49-year-olds fell by 4.4% year-over-year. That’s a smaller year-over-year decline than seen in Q1 (-5.2%).

Looking further back, the amount of traditional TV watched by 35-49-year-olds as a whole has declined by 17.5% over the course of 5 years.

Age Group: 50-64

Overall, 50-64-year-olds watched close to 39-and-a-half hours of traditional TV per week during Q2 2018, translating to a hefty 5 hours and 38 minutes per day.

Compared to the year-earlier period, traditional TV viewing among 50-64-year-olds declined by just 9 minutes per week, or about a minute per day. Obviously, the industry is holding onto this demographic a lot more successfully…

In percentage terms, traditional TV viewing among 50-64-year-olds was essentially flat, with just an 0.4% year-over-year decline.

Looking further back, the amount of traditional TV watched by 50-64-year-olds as a whole has declined by just 3.5% over the course of 5 years. Consumption patterns appear to be steady for this age group despite the advent of streaming options and their growing popularity with this bracket.

Age Group: 65+

During Q2 2018, the 65+ demographic watched almost 48-and-a-half hours of traditional TV per week, which works out to an impressive (if you’d like to call it that) near-7 hours per day.

Compared to the year-earlier period, traditional TV viewing in the 65+ group was actually up by 22 minutes per week, or a few minutes per day. Once again, the industry is holding onto this demographic a lot more successfully, another measure of how traditional TV’s audience is trending older over time.

In percentage terms, traditional TV viewing in the 65+ group was basically flat, growing by 0.8%.

Looking further back, the amount of traditional TV watched by the 65+ demographic as a whole has increased by 3.3% over the course of 5 years.

Traditional TV vs. TV-Connected Devices

The latest report from Nielsen provides a look at how much daily time people are spending with TV-connected devices, defined as DVD/Blu-Ray Devices, Game Consoles, and Internet-Connected Devices (including streaming media players and smart TVs).

As a result, we can compare the time spent with TV-connected devices to the time spent watching traditional TV (h:mm) for each age group. This data is averaged among the entire population by segment, rather than device users. Here we go:

  • (12-17) Connected TV: 7:55 per week. Traditional TV: 10:12
  • (18-34) Connected TV: 8:11 per week. Traditional TV: 14:02
  • (35-49) Connected TV: 5:45 per week. Traditional TV: 25:48
  • (50-64) Connected TV: 3:25 per week. Traditional TV: 39:26
  • (65+) Connected TV: 2:11 per day. Traditional TV: 48:26

As the data indicates, there are huge differences by age group in terms of viewing behavior, with traditional TV time far greater among older audiences and connected TV time (while still trailing traditional TV) much higher among younger groups.

Here’s the data in chart format:

Comparing Races/Ethnicities

While the focus of this article is on age groups, let’s take a moment to compare the behaviors of African-Americans, Hispanic Americans and Asian-Americans, per the report’s data. Because they’re quite different…

Take for example, traditional TV, which averaged in Q2 (hh:mm):

  • 43:09 per week among Black adults (~6:10 per day);
  • 22:38 per week among Hispanic adults (3:14 per day); and
  • 15:35 per week among Asian-American adults (~2:14 per day).

As such, African-American adults watch almost 3 times more traditional TV per day than Asian-American adults, and almost twice as much as Hispanic adults.

In case you’re wondering how much of that is attributable to reach (with these figures being averaged among the entire population), traditional TV’s reach averaged 90% among Black Americans, 88% among Hispanic Americans and 72% among Asian-Americans in Q1.

So some part of the discrepancy is due to Asian-Americans being less likely to watch traditional TV, but even viewers are watching much less than African-Americans.

How Much Time Does Everyone Spend With Video?

OK, a couple more ways to look at video viewing behavior before we wrap this up. The Nielsen report also totals up the time spent with video per day, which includes traditional TV, TV-connected devices, video on a computer, video on smartphones and video on tablets. (The last two are limited to video-focused apps/web, such as HBO GO, as opposed to time spent watching video on Facebook, which is excluded.)

The grand total? A sizable 5 hours and 24 minutes per day spent consuming video content by the average adult.

That’s plenty of video time, but it’s actually down by more than a half hour from 5 hours and 57 minutes per day the previous quarter, after having increased from 5:46 per day in Q4 2017 and 5:27 per day in Q3.

And last but not least, if you’re wondering, 18-34-year-olds as a whole continued to spend more time in Q2 2018 using the internet (apps+web) on smartphones than watching traditional TV.

That milestone is nearing for the 35-49 crowd too. And here’s a juicy stat to end with: 35-49-year-olds spent almost as much time with the internet on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) in Q2 as they did watching traditional TV.

More to come with the next report’s release.

[A quick note on methodology. The above data in large part concerns “traditional TV” viewing, which averages out all live and DVR/time-shifted TV viewing (such as video-on-demand) during each quarter. As such, it is a measure of legacy TV viewing on set-top boxes, and does not include viewing via connected TV devices.]

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