Don’t Kill Your Television Just Yet: Broadcast Viewership Decreases, Television Use Increases

Broadcast television is no longer the most household’s primary source of information or entertainment. The internet – with its Google search, its YouTube, and its Netflix – has taken over the information and “trash television” superhighways. The television is, however, far from a superfluous device. A Pivotal Research Group study found that, despite watching less broadcast television, with adults 18 to 49, television use increases +1% more often this July [1].

Why Television Use Has Increased

Production Studio
When fight online distribution, they lost mind shares considerably

Smart television sets are almost entirely responsible for this month’s modest increase in television use among adults 18 to 49. Indeed, the use of internet connected TV devices like Roku,

Smart TV Demonstration For A Couple
Smart television demonstration for a couple

Apple TV, and Chromecast jumped +65% in the 18 to 49 age bracket. While overall use increased less dramatically, people spend nearly twice as much time using internet connected TV devices now than they did at this time in 2015 [1].

Slightly fewer (-0.8%) adults 18 to 49 tuned in for prime time programming this July, while slightly more (+0.9%) people overall watched prime time programming. Steady and even increasing viewership in older demographics can be attributed to the popularity of shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Mad Men that led the television revival of the 2000s to 2010s. Critics often credit these four shows with reintroducing the creativity, polish, and drama of cinema into made-for-television content and, as a result, attracting more viewers to television than ever before [3].
Fewer young adults than ever are tuning in to what has been called “the second golden age of television.” The Nielsen study found that adults 18 to 24 watched an average of 8 hours less traditional television per week in 2015 than they did in 2011.

Pivotal Research Group Logo
Research shows ad-supported cable TV decline

The Pivotal Research Group study found that viewership of both ad-supported cable TV and English-language broadcast declined in July. The steady, five-year decline in television viewership among young adults is still going strong [4].

Television Use Increases Also Due to Gaming

Video streaming is not the only activity driving people back to their televisions. Pivotal Research Group found that video game console use stayed steady at 9.3% of overall television use in July. Back in 2015, Nielsen found that adults 18 to 24 dedicate twice as much time to gaming and five times as much time to using other apps than they do to video streaming [2]. Gaming has kept many younger television users coming back to the device.

When it comes to competing in the online marketplace, network television has never been a natural. Initially vilifying streaming as, necessarily, pirating, networks have invested more resources in battling online distribution than they have in setting up their own online distribution lanes. It’s a shame because the future of their product is online. The internet is the easiest, fastest, and least expensive way to access video content, so people will inevitably use the internet to access video content.

Laptop With The Word "Marketplace"
Setting up online distribution is a smart move

If only Al Gore had warn the networks that the internet would eventually take off. And that the creation of its own distribution channels would be smarter than fighting piracy. Today, video content is king. Are the networks too late to enter the party?

In the late 2000s to early 2010s, while network television was battling pirating in the courts, entrepreneurs were establishing successful entertainment startups online. These startups introduced the gaming and video products that now compete directly with broadcast television on smart television screens. Young adults, who are less likely than other adults to view television as a crucial social norm [3], are drawn to the custom the television experience that these alternatives provide.

Boy Playing Video Games
Gaming and Video products compete directly with broadcast television on smart TV screen

Today, network television is entering the online marketplace with something it has never had, a disadvantage. Powerful partnerships between HBO and Apple TV, Showtime and Hulu, Comedy Central and Roku are lucrative for both broadcaster and distributor, but Pivotal Research Group’s latest findings indicate that networks need to enter into more partnerships like this in order to engage smart television users.
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