TV Dominates Americans’ 8.7 Hours of Daily Video Time

March 30, 2009

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Media & Entertainment | Radio | Technology | Television | Youth & Gen X

The average American spends an average of 8.7 hours each day consuming video media, and younger Baby Boomers (ages 45-54) watch the largest amount, 9.5 hours, according to recent collaborative research on video-viewing habits in the US.

The large-scale Video Consumer Mapping study, which was conducted on behalf of the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence (CRE) by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design (CMD) and Sequent Partners, also reveals that traditional, live television is still the most popular form of video media watched by Americans of all ages surveyed.


This finding, according to researchers, dispels anecdotal notions that Americans – especially those in younger age groups – are flocking in droves to free TV on the internet. In reality, the study found that computer video tends to be small, with an average time of two minutes (slightly more than 0.5%) a day and that the amount of exposure time to ads remains signficant.


“These new results are consistent with previous Nielsen studies that have found that video consumption has never been higher and that television continues to dominate the media landscape,” said Paul Donato, Nielsen’s chief research officer.

Additional survey findings:

  • Though the amount of screen time for the majority of Americans averages 524 minutes/day,? the composition and duration of devices used by the different age? groups throughout the day varies.
  • Though TV video is #1, computer use has replaced radio as the #2 media activity, even in metropolitan areas where commute times can be long and drive-time radio remains popular. Radio is now # 3 and print media is #4.
  • TV users were exposed to, on average, 72 minutes per day of TV ads and promotions. According to researchers, this dispels another commonly held belief that modern consumers are channel-hopping or otherwise avoiding most of the ads in the programming they view.
  • Early DVR owners spend much more time with DVR playback than newer DVR owners. At the same time, DVR playback is even more likely than live TV to be the sole medium these consumers watch.
  • Americans watched an average of 20 minutes of mobile time, with younger viewers watching more.


  • “Environmental” exposure outside the home, while still relatively small at just 2.8% of total video consumption today, could nearly double during the next few years. Currently, measurement of these screens is in its infancy, though its importance seems to be growing.


Self-Reporting ‘Alarmingly’ Inaccurate

The research, which provides a high level of detail about a wide range of video viewing habits, suggests that other types of studies that ask respondents to self-report their viewing habits may not always be accurate.

“What differentiates this study from all other attempts to measure video exposure at the consumer level is its scale, the range of media covered and the fact that it is focused on consumers first and the media second,” said Mike Bloxham, director of insight and research for Ball State’s CMD. “It’s not a study about TV or the Web or any other medium – it’s about how, where, how often and for how long consumers are exposed to all media.”

“Among the things we learned from those experiences is that people generally cannot report accurately how much time they spend with media,” added Bloxham. “Some media tend to be over-reported whereas others tend to be under-reported – sometimes to an alarming extent. Clearly, that kind of variance puts in question one’s ability to draw meaningful conclusions, and it convinced us that the observational method is the only real way to achieve accurate and reliable results.”

About the study: The Video Consumer Mapping (VCM) study methodology involved directly observing participants throughout the day. Using handheld smart keyboards equipped with a custom media collector program developed by Ball State, the researchers recorded -? in 10-second increments – consumer exposure to visual content presented on any of four categories of screens: traditional television (including live TV as well as DVD/VCR and DVR playback); computer (including web use, e-mail, instant messaging and stored or streaming video); mobile devices such as a Blackberry or iPhone (including web use, text messaging and mobile video); and “all other screens” (including display screens in out-of-home environments, in-cinema movies and other messaging and even GPS navigation units).

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