Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Is There Anything We Won’t Watch? Web Video Booming, but TV Still Growing, Too.

poltergeistPlenty of smart folks keep gathering around TV’s grave so that they can throw dirt on it, but it’s not dead yet. In fact, it’s still growing, says Nielsen: More Americans spent more time watching TV this spring than they did a year ago.

The numbers come from Nielsen’s quarterly “Three Screen” report, which measures eyeballs watching video on TV, on the Web and on mobile devices. And just like the report Nielsen put out three months ago, it shows that even while Americans gobble up more online video, they’re still watching as much TV as they ever have. More, even: The number of viewers increased by 0.9 percent, while the time they spent watching TV increased 1.5 percent.

Here’s how the numbers break down (click tables below to enlarge):

Total number of viewers:

nielsen-video-usage

Time spent viewing:
nielsen-video-time-spent

Two different theories, which are not mutually exclusive, may explain the ever-increasing amount of video we’re supposedly gorging on:

  • We’re out of work or underemployed, and we’re filling those hours with sitcoms and dogs-on-skateboard clips.
  • We’re multitasking and gorging on all of this stuff at the same time.

On that last theory: Nielsen says 57 percent of us are spending at least an hour a month watching Web video and TV at the same time. We’re much more likely to turn on the TV while we’re Web-surfing than vice versa, though.

nielsen-tv-web

No surprise, by the way, to see that people are spending more time watching Web video. But interesting to note that while the universe of mobile video watchers has increased, they’re spending less time watching.

For what it’s worth, Nielsen says that short-form clips–like those from Google’s (GOOG) YouTube–make up 83 percent of Web video viewing, while “name-brand TV network content” makes up the majority of mobile video. Note that Hulu, the joint venture between News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox, GE’s (GE) NBC and Disney’s (DIS) ABC, doesn’t have a mobile option, so it can’t claim credit for those eyeballs.

Too many numbers! Time for video. Here’s a clip of the Minnesota Vikings’ (!) Brett Favre from this week’s “Monday Night Football” game. This one has been seen more than half a million times, but there’s no way it’s legal. So it will go down sooner or later–both the NFL and ESPN are pretty zealous about this stuff.

But right now it’s promoted for all to see on YouTube’s homepage. Which means there are still some kinks in the company’s vaunted “ContentID” program.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work