The splintering TV consumption landscape, in 5 charts

Consumers today have a broader array of video entertainment options than ever before — and they’re embracing all of them.

That wealth of video sources comes at the expense of linear, or live, television, which now reaches less than half of U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 58 on a monthly basis, according to a new report from Forrester Research (“Making Sense of New Video Consumption Behavior”). That stat demonstrates the necessity of a multiplatform strategy for marketers and media buyers, said Jim Nail, the Forrester analyst behind the report.

“By and large, linear TV still accounts for the lion’s share of time spent with video programming, but if that’s all you [advertise on], then you’re missing a lot of these audiences,” Nail told Digiday.

Format breakdown
Broadcast TV still reaches a broader audience than any other format, but only by a small margin. Only 40 percent of millennials (ages 18 to 34) and 52 percent of Gen X-ers and younger boomers (ages 35 to 58) tune in to live TV each month, according to Forrester’s data, which came from a base sample of 3,166 U.S. adults.

Streaming through a free video service is the next most popular consumption method in terms of total monthly reach, with DVR recordings and streaming through a paid video service slipping in just behind free streams. Unsurprisingly, DVR is more widely used among the older crowd, while video streaming proves more popular among millennials.

TV format breakdown
Source: Forrester

“Based on how much more the millennials are embracing streaming and other ways of viewing, if marketers go out and buy 100 gross rating points against the 18-to-49 group, the likelihood is they’re going to over-deliver to 35-to-49 and under-deliver against the millennials,” said Nail.

Device breakdown
The number of hours America spends in front of the television set doesn’t accurately reflect the demand for TV programming, however. People, especially millennials, spend a substantial amount of time watching TV content through a digital connection on other devices.

TV on TV versus TV online
Source: Forrester

ComScore’s “U.S. Total Video Report” from October includes a more detailed platform breakdown for original TV series consumption, demonstrating what share of time each platform receives for TV viewing. Across all age groups, traditional TV sets attract the majority of time spent watching original TV series, but millennials show a higher appetite for watching long-form content on smaller screens.

TV viewing platform share of time

The length and type of content dictates what device viewers choose to watch it on, Forrester’s data shows. TV sets still reign supreme for “full-length” content, including current-season TV shows, news and sports. But laptops are a popular choice for shorter news and sports clips, as well as shorter Web-native video.

Device breakdown
Source: Forrester

Current-season TV shows and movies remain the most-watched content: 50 percent of U.S. online adults view it monthly, according to Forrester. But with the rise of time-shifted viewing and streaming, 37 percent of adults — and 42 percent of millennials — revisit past seasons of shows that are no longer airing at least once each month.

There are a variety of reasons people choose to consume original TV programming online, but the cost of cable is not the top driver, according to comScore. Only 33 percent of respondents cited the expense of pay TV services as one of the main reasons they watch TV programming on the Internet. The top reasons revolved around convenience: the ability to watch on their own schedules, skip commercials and binge watch.

Online TV viewing drivers Homepage image via vilax / Shutterstock

More in Media

NewFronts Briefing: Samsung, Condé Nast, Roku focus presentations on new ad formats and category-specific inventory

Day two of IAB’s NewFronts featured presentations from Samsung, Condé Nast and Roku, highlighting new partnerships, ad formats and inventory, as well as new AI capabilities.

The Athletic to raise ad prices as it paces to hit 3 million newsletter subscribers

The New York Times’ sports site The Athletic is about to hit 3 million total newsletter subscribers. It plans to raise ad prices as as a result of this nearly 20% year over year increase.

NewFronts Briefing: Google, Vizio and news publishers pitch marketers with new ad offerings and range of content categories

Day one of the 2024 IAB NewFronts featured presentations from Google and Vizio, as well as a spotlight on news publishers.