Americans Choose Digital Over TV

eMarketer reported in August that Americans are engaging with digital media for over five hours a day versus the four and a half they spend watching TV. The digital engagement hours have nearly doubled since 2010, reflecting a rapidly changing mediascape. TV hours on the other hand first grew slowly from 4:24 hours and then dropped from 4:38 to 4:31 in the last year.


Aside from the numbers, it’s pressing that we examine the kind of engagement each platform allows for. People still spend a ridiculous amount of time watching TV, but how they’re receiving the broadcast is crucial. The TV is often on “in the background” or used to watch pre-recorded shows, which allow you to fast forward through advertisements. The television is becoming something to hook your laptop up to and stream Hulu or Netflix rather than a source of programming itself.

Compare the viewer disengagement in the TV realm with streaming a video on a mobile device. You’re not going to have an arbitrary video playing in the background while you surf the web on your smartphone; you’re far more likely to be watching it with the single minded purpose of well, watching it. The fact that smartphones allow for a closer, more intense connection between viewer and content is something which major players in the digital industry are taking note of. Vox Media and Buzzfeed, for instance, are investing huge amounts of money into developing content specifically for mobile viewing.

Thus digital campaigns are often a wiser investment than buying a television spot, especially if you’re trying to reach a younger demographic, which as NBC’s cancelled “Harry’s Law” demonstrates, is the goal. The show, despite being a hit with older viewers was cancelled to draw in younger eyeballs, which in turn reflects who advertisers are really trying to reach. In fact TV hours for viewers aged 12-17 are the lowest, even 18 to 24-year-olds only watch around 25 hours a week compared to the whopping 48 hours that people over 65 watch. TV is becoming “old news”.

TV is also becoming notoriously “uncool” and a large number of campaigns are now focusing on creating videos for the digital space with short truncated previews broadcasted on TV. Television then, is perhaps going to become purely a means to drive viewers to better digitized content.

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