Spending a lot of time at conferences as I do, affords me the opportunity to hear the many apocryphal stories that illustrate the transition from single screen to multiscreen viewing. One recurring theme is the extraordinary transformation in how children are engaging with television content. It is all too easy to jump from these individual experiences and draw generalities for the broad market. In this case, however, evidence is mounting that children’s Internet video usage is supplanting the television.
Last week, new data in the UK shows how quickly children are moving from television watching to Internet video consumption. According to Ofcom, over a third of children from five to 15 years old now own their own tablet. Further, if you include children that use a parent’s device the number using the device jumps to 60%. The velocity of change is also startling. The number of children using a tablet to watch video has increased 50% over 2013, while the number children with a television in their bedroom has decreased by one third over the last five years.
While I have noted that people in the UK have an unusually high affinity for the tablet, signs are similar trends are impacting the young in the US. Consulting the last four years of second quarter data from Nielsen’s multiscreen reports shows some similar trends. Television watching in the home has declined in each of the last three years in the 2 to 11 year olds, down from 110.3 hours per month in 2011 to 1002.9 hours in 2014. Teenagers show a similar trend, falling from 99.6 hours in 2011 to 86.7 in 2014. In the last year alone, TV viewing in this age group plummeted 9%.
On the other hand, Internet video consumption has been growing sharply. The 2-11 year olds increased Internet video watching by 87%, to 6.3 hours a month, in just the last year. Once again, teenagers displayed a similar trend increasing 53% to 6.3 hours a month.
Other data in US supports the switch from TV viewing to Internet video. Last month, Variety announced the results of a survey of 1500 US teens that found that YouTube stars are far more well-known than traditional media stars. In fact, the five most influential figures among 13-18 year olds are all YouTube stars. Smosh was number one followed by the Fine Brothers at number two and PewDiePie number three. All of the top ten except one (actor Paul Walker) were YouTube stars.
This trend is forcing children’s television programmers to radically rethink how they can reach their audience. Speaking at Mipcom this week, Nickelodeon’s president Russell Hicks commented:
“They are watching TV with their devices in their hands, they want to look at interactive everything and to interact in every which way with the programming.”
Mr. Walker went on to say that his company is focusing on building short-form series and content for web and app delivery. The company will also follow the success of the Nick app with a Nick Jr. app before year’s end.
Meanwhile, Disney is looking to leverage YouTube star power in its linear programming to help bring kids back to TV. Maker Studios, which was recently acquired by Disney, has struck a deal with Fusion (a joint venture between Disney’s ABC and Univision) to create branded content for Fusion TV. In addition, Maker will help expand the reach of Fusion’s YouTube channel.
Why it matters
The stories we hear about kids watching video on mobile devices all the time appear to be indicative or a general trend.
Data from the UK shows dramatic increases in tablet usage in the 5-15 year olds.
Nielsen data in the US shows TV watching falling and Internet video consumption growing.
Television programmers are responding to the trend with more focus on online delivery.