Younger viewers watch less TV on TV

Amy Scott Feb 9, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: This next story you can file under the heading “things we pretty much knew, but now there’s proof.” It comes to us from Nielsen, the TV ratings people. They issued a report today that says younger viewers are spending less time in front of the tube. About nine minutes a day less, to be precise.

Nine lousy minutes. How big a deal can that possibly be, right? To advertisers for whom every minute counts — a bigger deal than you might think. We sent Marketplace’s Amy Scott to see what young people are doing with all that extra time.

Birds chirping

Amy Scott: Mmmm, no. They’re not taking in the fresh air, or reading books. No, consultant Bill Carroll with Katz Television Group says instead of watching shows on TV, young people are watching them…

Bill Carroll: …On an iPad, on an iPhone, on the Internet.

Or, as the character Eric van der Woodsen put it on “Gossip Girl.”

“Gossip Girl” TV clip: Who watches TV on a TV anymore, anyway?

Actually, lots of people still do. Pat McDonough is an analyst with Nielsen.

Pat McDonough: So then the real question is, is the drop in usage on the traditional television set a temporary change, or is it the beginning of even more of our viewing going to other screens?

That’s the big question for advertisers and studios. Tom Adams with IHS Screen Digest says advertisers can still reach TV defectors.

Tom Adams: They’re able to follow them, but not monetize their eyeballs quite as well.

That’s because there are fewer ads in shows online. But McDonough says last year’s dip in TV viewing may be overstated. She says in 2010 people watched even more television than usual — because they had less work.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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