Study: More Net Equals Less TV

  |  September 23, 2004   |  Comments

Time spent online per week climbs at the expense of television watching, says the new Digital Future Project report.

The fourth installment of the Digital Future Project (formerly the UCLA Internet Report) examined media usage among Americans, finding that there is a distinct correlation between the increase in online time and tenure and the overall decline in television viewing.

The number of hours spent online in 2003 has increased over 2002 while the number of hours spent watching TV has stayed virtually the same. Growth in online time has risen more quickly than television viewing declined.

Average Number of Hours
Spent by Internet Users
Year Online Watching
2003 12.5 11.6
2002 11.1 11.2
2001 9.8 12.3
2000 9.4 NA
Source: The Digital Future Project

The Television Bureau of Advertising, in conjunction with Nielsen Media Research, discovered opposing results in its 2003 study. Adults averaged 258.4 minutes in front of the TV each day, compared to 65.8 minutes online.

The gap widened and narrowed at various demographic points. Those with household incomes below $25,000 annually spent 318.7 minutes in front of the TV, and just 30.3 minutes online. Professionals and managers spent just 199.8 minutes watching TV and 101.1 minutes on the Internet, largely due to work usage.

A greater percentage of the Internet households surveyed by the Digital Future Project indicated that they spent less time watching TV in 2003 than previous years. Nearly 38 percent said they spent less time watching television in 2003, compared to 31 percent in 2002, and 33 percent in 2001.

The greatest impact on television viewing was seen among veteran users with 7+ years online, with 45.5 percent saying they watched less since they started using the Internet. In 2001, just 35 percent said the Internet caused them to watch less TV. That swelled to 38 percent in 2002.

Other studies have also shown that Internet users are overlapping media, rather than substituting. Phil Rist, vice president of strategy for BIGresearch, said, "Our research shows that consumers are watching TV while online and vice versa...shifting their attention back and forth between the two media, sometimes minute by minute."

Simultaneous usage creates the risk that marketing messages will become diluted, and therefore less effective.

"Competition for the consumer's attention will continue to increase and be a challenge to marketers," noted Rist.

BIGresearch's June 2004 examination of media usage found that 31.5 percent of 18 to 34-year olds and 33.3 percent of those 35+ watch TV while online. Roughly 24 percent of the surveyed adults said they went online while watching television.


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