Here’s How Our Media Platform Preferences Fluctuate Throughout the Day

December 20, 2018

US adults spent a plurality 42% of their daily media time with live and time-shifted TV during the second quarter of this year, reports Nielsen in a recently-released study [download page]. Digital media – including internet on computers and mobile devices – occupied one-third (34%) of their time, twice as much as radio (17%). But how that breakdown is distributed varies quite significantly during the day.

Not surprisingly, traditional TV’s share of total media time is highest in the primetime and evening hours, rising from a low of 32% during the 10AM-12PM period all the way up to 55% at 9PM, 57% at 10PM and a peak of 60% at 11PM.

TV-connected devices (such as DVDs, game consoles, and internet-connected devices) largely follow the same pattern, growing throughout the day to peak at 11PM. As Nielsen notes, fully 73% of media time at 11PM is spent in front of a TV screen.

As a result, TV cannibalizes share of media time from both digital and radio during its hours of heightened activity. Digital media’s share of total media time is lowest at the 11PM hour – at 23% – but gradually grows from there to peak at 5AM (42%). Digital also has a second peak at 10AM, when TV’s share is lowest.

As for radio, a big jump in share of media time occurs between 4AM (7%), 5AM (15%) and 6AM (23%) before peaking at 7AM (28%), likely coinciding with commutes.

Media time overall (meaning amount of time spent with media, not share of time) is highest at 9PM for people ages 18-64, according to the analysis of Q2 media usage. Although peak media usage is at 8PM for people ages 65 and older, they still spend the most time in front of the TV at 9PM, as do the other age groups.

Given that 9PM is when people spend the most time in front of the TV screen, but 11PM is when TV’s share of media time is highest, the data suggests that TV time drops off a little more slowly than other media between 9PM and midnight.

It’s worth noting that there is plenty of media multitasking, too. In survey results reported in the study, almost half (45%) of adults claimed to watch TV and use a digital device simultaneously, either always (9%) or often (36%). Some 71% said they look up information related to the TV content they’re watching, while 35% look up or shop for a product/service being advertised.

Finally, although 18-34-year-olds are similar to older adults in reserving their greatest amount of TV viewing for the 9PM hour, it’s also true that younger adults spend far less time in front of the TV in terms of both volume and media share.

In fact, 18-34-year-olds spent only one-quarter of their daily media time with live and time-shifted TV during the second quarter, far surpassed by the 44% of time spent with digital media, including with smartphone internet and apps alone (31%). And while young adults also spent a greater share of their daily media time with TV-connected devices than others, even adding that to the traditional TV figures isn’t enough to catch up with the digital devices.

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