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Consumer Media Usage Fragmentation: An Evolution of Consumer Lifestyle Habits Fostered by Technology


I recently read a scholarly article (written by an analyst, not a media planning/buying professional) suggesting that the demise of commercial television is near. To me, the prospect of a world without commercial TV was very alarming and almost unbearable, so much so that I was tempted to go home and throw my five television sets out the window, much like the opening credits of the 1970’s sketch comedy show Second City TV.


I refrained, largely because I knew that commercial television is still robust, but more fragmented than ever by many programming and access options. I also held back my impulse as I did not want to waste $5,000 worth of electronics without having a sketch comedy show of my own.

Reality - Background

Today’s consumer resides in a world flush with viewing content and with the ability to consume programming virtually at will, on multiple devices. It is my opinion that a more expansive menu of TV viewing options is a very good thing not only for consumers, but for advertisers as well.

In the not so distant past, advertisers put their needle in the TV haystack and hoped the right folks found it. Advertisers now can focus their messaging more directly and quickly learn from the vast amounts of data generated. The fact of the matter is that the television universe has grown. With a more diverse menu of options, advertisers can be more precise with their TV advertising and gain cost efficiency. Nielsen data reveals that, over the past ten years, TV-Cable-ADS HHs are growing slowly, but steadily. Since 2000, Cable has given up some ground to ADS mainly because of significant improvements in technology that have fostered more affordable consumer pricing.

Primetime HUT levels have remained mostly stable with slight erosion YOY since 2013 and over the course of 10 years. However, I am guessing that Primetime HUT levels have grown but that this growth has gone unnoticed as Cable penetration has shifted to ADS and -subsequently- to OTT homes that are likely to be unmeasured by Nielsen. Over-The-Top (OTT) refers to content providers that distribute streaming media as a standalone product directly to consumers over the Internet, bypassing telecommunications, multichannel television, and broadcast television providers.


MRI reports that weekly hours of internet usage are growing at a steady clip, suggesting that consumer content/programming viewing habits may be shifting to digital devices. Nielsen does account for DVRs/time-shifted viewing, thus some alternative viewing does not go unnoticed or come completely at the expense of traditional commercial TV ratings.

This leads me to surmise that the Primetime TV-viewing universe has grown because consumers are viewing more programming/content, but this viewing is not captured because ratings for these sources are not yet reliably measured or included as part of the classic/traditional daypart reported via Nielsen.


Nielsen’s Q2 2017 Total Audience Report confirms Americans’ significant and consistent preference for television over all other media.

  • With over 31 hours of traditional TV weekly viewing, inclusive of time-shifted viewing, adults 18+ are consuming more than twice as much television each week as compared to the second and third most used mediums, smartphone app/web usage and AM/FM radio.

  • Adults 18+ spent 31 hours and 6 minutes per week viewing video content on a television, while just 2 hours and 19 minutes watching video on a computer, and 2 hours and 16 minutes with a multimedia device.


Source: The Nielsen Company & TVB

Nielsen’s Total Audience Report data reflects scientific measurement that is the standard for time-spent analysis.

Key Take-Aways

By taking a slightly deep dive into currently available media research, marketers can gain a proper perspective on the media landscape and come away understanding that this classic marketplace is still a simple supply and demand transaction, but with many more choices for effectively finding valuable consumers.

I would encourage any marketer to be mindful of the following insights:

  • Commercial television, although fragmented, is still robust and offers both viewers and advertisers many options

  • TV remains consumers’ medium of choice and as such, continues to be the most effective and powerful marketing medium

  • Marketers greatly benefit from a layered approach to their media plans/buys

  • Technology and subsequent added convenience are key causes for the evolution of the media landscape

  • Marketers and agencies need to stay on top of technology trends

  • The speed at which the current television/video landscape is evolving has eclipsed the rate at which the advertising industry can reliably measure viewing habits

  • Data points must improve for marketers to fully understand true benefit

#television #technology

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