US Adults Spend More Time Accessing the Internet and Apps on Their Smartphones Than Watching Traditional TV

April 29, 2020

Nielsen Adult Daily Media Usage in Q32019 Apr2020TV is reaching fewer US adults than before, as more people are spending time with their smartphones and other connected devices. Recent data from Nielsen reveals that in Q3 2019, more US adults used an app or the web on a smartphone (85%) than watched traditional (live + time-shifted) TV (84%) on a weekly basis.

Indeed, TV’s reach dropped by a couple of percentage points year-over-year (y-o-y) in the third quarter of 2019 while the percentage of adults using smartphone apps and internet was up by 5 points. Separately, radio has consistently remained the platform that reaches the largest audience, with stable reach of 92% of adults.

When sorting by race and ethnicity, the data reveals some disparities in media consumption habits. Fully 96% of Hispanic Americans listened to the radio in Q3 2019, which is a higher proportion than both Black Americans (91%) and White Americans (89%). MarketingCharts’ research has found that internet radio has particularly strong appeal with Hispanic audiences.

Although Nielsen does not have separate data for Asian-American radio audiences, the data does show that a slightly larger percentage of Asian-Americans report weekly use of the internet on smartphones (88%) than do Hispanic (86%), Black American (86%) and White (85%) adults.

Conversely, there are far fewer Asian-Americans (67%) who spend time weekly with traditional TV (live and/or time-shifted) than any other ethnicity or race. Black Americans (87%) continue to be the most apt to watch TV on a weekly basis, followed by White (85%) and Hispanic (83%) adults.

Smartphone Internet Use Outpaces Traditional TV

In another sign of the times, not only are more American adults using the internet on smartphones than watching TV, but they’re also spending more time on average doing so. During Q3 2019, American adults spent an average of 3:58 (hours: minutes) per day accessing the internet or apps on their smartphones, compared to the 3:27 they spent with live TV. Even factoring in time-shifted viewing doesn’t hand the advantage back to TV (3:56 in total).

Moreover, time spent with live TV has decreased from one year earlier, when US adults spent 3:44 per day on average viewing traditional TV content. This is another indicator of audiences shifting their attention toward digital and away from more traditional platforms.

By contrast, time spent with TV-connected devices increased by an average of 9 minutes y-o-y to reach 0:38. And, although tablet ownership has fallen in the past couple of years, the average daily time spent on a tablet increased from 0:43 in Q3 2018 to 0:52 in Q3 2019.

Looking once again at racial and ethnic breakdowns, Black Americans spent more time with live TV than any other medium. At a daily average of 5:04, they spent more time with it than any other ethnicity or race. At the other end of the spectrum, Asian-Americans only spent an average of 1:42 per day with live TV, down from 2:05 last year.

Black Americans also spent the most time on average accessing the internet and apps on smartphones at 4:46 daily, compared to Hispanics (4:08), Asian-Americans (3:56) and Whites (3:49).

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