nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Older Americans catch the streaming wave

reach of video platforms Q3 2019

Nielsen Q3 2019 Total Audience Report shows the continued slow decline of linear TV and healthy growth of connected device viewing. However, the biggest surprise is how fast older Americans are joining the streaming revolution.

It looks like the over-65 age group is catching the streaming wave. The increase in the number of people using connected TVs and smartphones to watch was higher among that age group. Moreover, the growth in viewing time was also far higher than other age groups. Over-65s are now watching a similar amount of video through their connected devices as the much younger 18-34s.

Here’s how reach and usage changed between Q3 2018 and Q3 2019 for live plus time-shifted TV, connected TV devices, smartphone video apps, and tablet video apps.

Live plus time-shifted TV viewing

Reach: 84% (210M adults, down 14M YoY) | Usage: 4 hours 23 mins/day by users (-5% YoY)

live TV usage Q3 2019

In Q3 2019, 84% of adults watch traditional television either live or time-shifted, a decrease of 2.3% over 2018. The decrease is another reflection of the increase in cord-cutting pay TV saw in 2019. Television’s reach in all age groups fell. The fastest decline was in the 18-34s, where 4% fewer people watched traditional TV in 2019. The gentlest drop was in those over-65, where reach fell 1%.

Those still watching traditional TV consumed nearly 5% less than in Q3 2018. The average adult watched 4 hours and 23 minutes a day, down 13 minutes. Again, the age group leading the decline was the 18-34s. They watched for just 1 hour and 53 minutes per day, a 14% decline. Over-65s usage 3% less, though still spent 6 hours and 50 minutes a day watching.

Connected TV viewing[1]

Reach: 44% (109M adults, up 17M YoY) | Usage: 1 hour 20 min/day by users (+12% YoY)

connected TV usage Q3 2019

The number of adults using a connected TV device increased sharply between Q3 2018 and Q3 2019. 44%, or 109 million people, were watching through a connected TV last year, up from 37% in 2018. Almost half of the 18-34s used a connected TV in 2019, up from 43% in the previous year. However, the greatest increase was among those over-65. 28% were using a connected TV in 2019, up from 22% in the previous year.

Nielsen’s numbers suggest a good deal of the decrease in linear TV viewing is transferring to the connected TV. The average adult user of connected TV watched 7 minutes more a day, or 1 hour and 20 minutes. 18-34s watched for the longest. They consumed 1 hour and 27 minutes per day, up 8 minutes. Interestingly, the most robust growth in usage was among the over-65s. They watch 1 hour and 13 minutes a day, up 10 minutes from last year.

Smartphone video app usage

Reach: 72% (180M adults, up 27M YoY) | Usage: 22 mins/day by users (+30% YoY)

smartphone video usage Q3 2019

Nearly three-quarters of all U.S. adults were using video apps on their smartphones in Q3 2019. Reach was highest, unsurprisingly, among the 18-34s at 84. However, there was a big surge in users among the over-65s, with reach growing from 38% to 49% between 2018 and 2019.

The amount of time smartphone users devote to watching video on their device is much lower than the connected TV. On average, people watched for 22 minutes a day, an increase of 2 minutes a day year-over-year. 18-34s watched for 30 minutes a day in Q3 2019, while over-65s watched for 14 minutes.

Tablet video app usage

Reach: 30% (76M adults, up 10M YoY) | Usage: 26 mins/day by users (+4mins YoY)

tablet video usage Q3 2019

The number of people using their tablets to watch video through an app increased across all age groups. On average, 30% of adults watched tablet video in Q3 2019. Reach was highest among 35-49s, at 34%, and lowest among the 18-34s, at 27%.

Tablet video viewers watched longer than smartphone viewers. On average, they consumed 26 minutes per day in Q3 2019. The 18-34s watched for the longest, at 30 minutes, though viewing time was virtually unchanged from a year ago. Over-65s showed the most significant increase, watching 58% more (24 minutes a day) than the previous year.

Why it matters

Smartphone video has the deepest penetration among the U.S. population, while connected TV generates the most usage.

18-34-year-olds are the biggest users of connected device viewing.

Over-65s are still the lightest consumers of streamed video, but adoption is growing fast.


[1] Nielsen refers to connected TV devices as TV internet connected devices.

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