The use of Internet-ready devices like smartphones appears to have seriously cut into American's traditional TV-watching time, new Nielsen data shows, potentially undercutting the notion that mobile devices merely serve as "second screens" while people are plopped in front of the set.
Data provided to The Associated Press shows that the number of 18-to-34-year-olds who used a smartphone, tablet or TV-connected device like a streaming box rose 26 percent in May compared to a year earlier, to an average of 8.5 million people per minute.
By contrast, the numbers of those in the same age group who watched TV, listened to radio or used a computer fell 8 percent over the same period to 16.6 million people per minute.
Nielsen's inaugural "Comparable Metrics" report for the first time presents data on average use per minute, making it possible to directly compare the time people are spending on their various devices.
The audience for TV viewing alone fell by 10 percent, to 8.4 million people a minute in the 18-to-34-year-old category. That fall-off in the younger audience highly coveted by advertisers confirms a trend in other Nielsen data that found traditional TV viewing peaked in the 2009-2010 season.
"It's pretty clear the increased use of mobile devices is having some effect on the system as a whole," said Glenn Enoch, Nielsen's senior vice president of audience insights. The new Nielsen data doesn't break out time spent specifically on streaming TV, since that usage is likely spread across TV-connected devices, phones, tablets and PCs.
Since Nielsen inaugurated its tracking service in 1949, average daily TV viewing has marched steadily upward, from 4 hours and 35 minutes a day to a peak of 8 hours and 55 minutes in 2009-2010. That increase coincided with growing numbers of TV sets sold and the proliferation of programming on cable channels.