nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

The young reject DVR, embrace smartphone video

trad TV + timeshift consumption US adults Q2 2016 Q2 2017

Young people increasingly view traditional TV and DVRs as things their parents and grandparents use. They still watch a lot on television, but they mostly stream their shows.

Traditional TV use continues to plummet among the young

According to Nielsen’s Q2 2017 Total Audience Report, traditional television viewing continued its broad decline. The average American watched 6% less live plus timeshifted television in Q2 2017 than they did in Q2 2016 and 10% less than in 2014. Every age group cut their viewing, with the biggest declines coming from young TV viewers. The average 12-to-17-year-old watched 18% less than last year and 38% less than in 2014. Teenagers now watch just 1 hour and 41 minutes per day.

The smallest losses were seen in the oldest viewers. Those over 65-years-old watched 6 hours and 52 minutes per day of traditional television in Q2 2017, just 5 minutes less per day than last year.

DVR usage up in the old, down in the young

Overall, timeshifted viewing (DVR and pay TV catch-up VOD) increased 4% year-over-year (YoY.) However, there are three significant things to note about this usage:

  1. Timeshifted viewing is just 12% of overall traditional TV viewing
  2. All the increase in usage came from the over-50s, particularly the over-65s
  3. The overall increase was a meager 1 minute per day, while live+timeshifted viewing fell 15 minutes per day.

Increasingly, the DVR is becoming an “old people’s thing.” Those aged between 12 and 24 years’ old watch timeshifted television, on average, 11 minutes per day. They watch video on their smartphones for longer. People over-50 watch nearly 4-times as much timeshifted television as the young.

Connected TV viewing picking up the slack

Nielsen says that 59% of TV households now have a TV connected device. 39.4 million homes have a game console, 36.6 million have a smart TV, and 30.6 million have a multimedia device (like a Roku or Apple TV.) 6.5 million have all three devices, and 12.2 million have a smart TV and/or a multimedia device.

Ownership of TV connected devices Q2 2017 USOf those homes with a connected TV device, around 80% have enabled it so that they can stream video to the television. Teenagers that watch video on connected TV devices watch for 3 hours and 26 minutes per day, according to Nielsen. Millennials watch slightly less, at 3 hours and 9 minutes per day. This data suggests that young people are not watching less television at all. They are just spending most of their television time watching streamed video, not traditional TV.

Smartphone viewing growing strongly

Those watching video on a smartphone increased 5% YoY, to reach 69% of the population. Regarding reach, the smartphone is now second only to the television.

smartphone video consumption by users Q2 2016 Q2 2017Though the amount people watch on the small screen remains small compared to the television, it is growing by leaps and bounds. Adult smartphone video viewers increased time watching 89% YoY, to 9.4 minutes per day. The biggest increases in usage came from millennials. Young millennials (18 to 24) watched 14-and-a-half minutes per day, 61% higher than last year. Old millennials (25-34) increased viewing 113% YoY, to reach 9-and-a-half minutes per day.

Even those over 65 increased viewing by 90%, though they are still only watching for 3.6 minutes per day.

Why it matters

Young TV viewers continue to flee traditional television.

They continue to watch on TV but consumer mostly streamed content.

Smartphone video is watched more by young people than the DVR or pay TV VOD.


(4) Comments

  1. Why do the Young want to watch TV on a Postage Stamp ?
    Beats me. Maybe it is “There” Next to the TEXTING and they do NOT know any better.
    Another reason, maybe CELL TV has fewer Commercials ?
    or / and the Young have NO Interest in Paying Insane, Crazy HIGH Prices for Cable/Satellite.
    They don’t like being Forced to Pay for Sports they NEVER watch on Cable/Satellite.
    Pay TV has to get sports OUT of the regular Packages and offer it ONLY al-la-carte,
    then maybe they will get the viewers back.

  2. One thing to keep in mind is that kids ARE using Cloud DVR – but they don’t call it such. They just pause & rewind the stream! Also, for another, more shocking graph to underscore Colin’s point, do take a peek at a slightly different breakdown for ONLY “DVR & Time-shift TV” amongst age groups, which is here:


    This is really emphasizing the point. TV is definitely an older skewing technology, for multiple reasons. But it’s fair to say that kids don’t have the TV device, whereas they do have iPads & iPhones.

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  4. When I was that age I never watched TV (much) I went out to play and do sport … Nielsen should track people and see how this demographics’ viewing habits change over time … because I am sure that would show a much better relationship with TV and technology. DVR??? Why do we believe that people still have DVR when nDVR is the norm in almost ALL operators – as Brian Ring says they are using it but they don’t even realise…

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