The Death of TV

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In 1992 Bruce Springsteen recorded a song titled “57 Channels (and Nothin’ On).” If he were to rewrite the song today, that number might be “570 Channels (and Maybe Somethin’ On).”

Still, if there is nothing to watch, consumers are watching a lot more of it. Since 2012, the average consumer has increased their mobile device video viewing by four hours a week while dropping their fixed screen viewing by 2.5 hours a week. Viewing scheduled linear TV content has dropped by 16% since 2010, while on-demand viewing using video streaming (Netflix, Hulu and others) and short-video clips (YouTube, Vine) have increased by 86% and 50%, respectively.

There are more TV and video options today than ever before, but 44% of viewers worldwide complain that there is nothing worth watching. The average U.S. viewer spends 23 minutes a day trying to find something to watch on broadcast TV. Over the course of a person’s life, that’s 1.3 years spent punching buttons on the TV remote control.

And while 44% of TV viewers say they can’t find anything to watch, 34% of video-on-demand (VOD) viewers say they have the same problem. Partially that’s due to the difficulty of navigating through the choices, although 63% of VOD viewers are satisfied with the content discovery method available to them compared with just 51% of viewers who are satisfied with the content discovery method of their linear (broadcast, cable, satellite) TV service.

The data were reported in the Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media 2016 study released Thursday. Data were collected from 24 countries spanning 22 markets, including the United States.

As we might expect, a viewer’s age plays a big role in how they consume TV and video. Streamed, on-demand video garners 3.7 hours a week of viewing time from the audience of 16 to 34 year olds, but only 1.3 hours a week from viewers 35 years of age or older.

Older viewers, in contrast, spend 4.4 hours a week viewing a TV series on a fixed schedule, something millennials do for just 3.3 hours a week. Younger viewers also watch less live sports programming (1.7 hours vs. 1.9 hours for older viewers) and less time watching live news (1.6 hours vs. 2.3 hours).

Viewers who use any kind of screen at any time (called “screen-shifters” in the study) spend 62 hours a week watching TV and video. In a distant second place are what the study calls “TV couch traditionalists” who watch 35 hours of TV and video a week, of which about 22 hours is scheduled linear TV.

The widespread global adoption of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, and while much of the video viewed on these devices is free (77% in the United States), in the U.S. market 20% of smartphone video consumption comes through paid subscription services.

Nearly two-thirds of viewers use a second screen (smartphone, tablet or even a laptop) when watching something on a fixed screen. Among millennials, only 8% never use a second screen, while the percentage jumps to 25% among older viewers. Nearly half (46%) of millennials use a second screen daily.

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Quantitative data was collected from 24 countries, however for the purposes of this report the results cover 22 markets. Throughout the report we refer to global results; where global data is not relevant we refer only to the US, due to it being a well-known market.

Qualitative: There were 24 in-depth interviews in Cape Town, San Francisco and Stockholm. These respondents all have multiple devices and an internet connection at home, and they watch both broadcast TV and on-demand video content.

On-device measurements: 13,548 Android smartphone users in South Korea and the US were measured (data collected by Nielsen).

Quantitative: More than 30,000 online interviews were held with people aged 16-69 across 24 markets: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, the UK and the US. All respondents have a broadband internet connection at home and watch TV/video at least once a week. Almost all use the internet on a daily basis. This study is representative of approximately 1.1 billion people.