Older viewers also abandoning TV in favor of phone, computer

More people are watching digital video as TV viewing declines; it's not just young people driving the trend

People in the U.S. are watching more digital video as traditional TV viewing declines, and it's not just young people driving the trend, according to a new report from Nielsen.

The measurement firm said Wednesday that the amount of time spent watching video on computers and smartphones each day among those age 55 and up increased 55% in the third quarter, compared with the same quarter last year. Meanwhile, traditional TV viewing among that demographic didn't change in the quarter. 

Among adults 18-to-49 years old, a group cherished by advertisers, daily viewing via the old-fashioned tube decreased 3% compared with last year, while digital viewing grew 53%.

The decline in regular-TV viewing was 2% among 25-to-54-year-olds, compared with a 62% bump in viewing on computers and mobile devices. (Still, the TV screen accounts for far more watching than the newer viewing methods.)

The shifts in TV viewing are part of an ongoing trend brought on by the proliferation of new streaming websites, apps and devices people now use to watch television programming.

Those changes were illustrated in Nielsen's Total Audience Report, renamed from its quarterly Cross-Platform Report, which indicated that the shift is happening accross the demographic categories.  

Media executives have been placing pressure on Nielsen to change its ratings to account for more of the digital audience as their live ratings continue to fall. In the third quarter, people watched about 141 hours a month of traditional TV (no DVR use or video on-demand), down 7% from a year ago. 

Last month Nielsen proposed that the TV industry should adopt a more inclusive ratings standard to account for the growth in alternative viewing methods. 

"Now is the time for a fundamental industry change," Dounia Turrill, Nielsen's senior vice president of insights, said in the new report. "Our goal is to deliver comprehensive measurement of all audience and all advertising by following the consumer."

Compared with a year ago, time-shifted viewing through digital recording devices and video on-demand grew to 14 hours and 20 minutes a month, from 12 hours and 31 minutes a month last year.

Watching of video on the Internet exploded to 10 hours and 42 minutes a month, a big surge from six hours and 20 minutes a year ago. 

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

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