Virtual MVPD Share of TV Homes Doubles: Nielsen

Live TV viewing at 3 hours 49 minutes
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With more people getting smart TVs and other connected devices, the percentage of homes with traditional cable continues to fall while those subscribing to virtual MVPDs has more than doubled, according to a new report from Nielsen.

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According to Nielsen’s second-quarter Total Audience Report, the percentage of U.S. TV households with a multichannel subscription was 80.8% in June, down from 82.7% in June 2017.

That number includes 77.4% of TV homes having traditional cable, a big drop from 81.3% a year ago, plus 3.4% subscribing to virtual MVPDs, more than double the 1.4% a year ago.

Related: Nielsen Puts Connected-TV Use at 8 Billion Hours Per Month

Cable networks are counting on the growth of lower-priced virtual MVPDs to help maintain their own subscriber levels as people drop the big programming bundles.

Over the air households rose to 12.9% from 12.6 and broadband only homes jumped to 6.3% from 4.7%.

According to Nielsen, subscription video on demand services are now available in two-thirds of TV households at 66%, up from 59% a year ago.

Related: A+E Joins Nielsen Test of Linear Dynamic Ad Insertion

Internet enabled TV-connected devices — enabled smart TVs, internet connected devices (i.e. Apple TV, Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV), and enabled game consoles — can also be found in over two thirds of U.S. households, up from 62% a year ago.

“Time spent with the television set is shifting, with consumers spending more time using TV-connected devices to stream content in addition to traditional TV. Similarly, smart home devices are changing the way people interact with technology, whether it’s to listen to music, give directives, or get updates on the latest news,” said Peter Katsingris, senior VP, audience insights at Nielsen. “More media content is also being accessed across digital platforms. Often, devices are used simultaneously with consumers choosing to multitask – researching something they heard or saw, checking email, online shopping, or simply staying connected with others.”

Peter Katsingris

Peter Katsingris

The average adult spent 10:24 per day on media. The biggest chunk of that was live TV, which accounted for 3:49, with time shifted TV adding another 39 seconds. The other big time eater was being on the web or an app on a smartphone, which occupied 2:19.

Nielsen did not have comparable year ago usage figures based on its current methodology, but the 10:24 using media and the 3:39 on live TV were the lowest among the last four quarters.

The biggest consumers of media in the second quarter were in the 50 to 64 age group, which average 11 hours and 49 minutes per day, followed by those age 65 and up. They were also the biggest consumers of live plus time shifted TV.

The youngest adults, those ages 18-34, consumed only 8 hours of media per day and just 2 hours of live and time shifted TV. But they were the biggest users of TV connected devices, plugged in for 1 hour and 10 minutes per day.

Those 18-34 spent more time on digital devices than on TV and TV-connected devices in the quarter, with a 44% share of their time going to digital and 42% going to TV.

Looking at time spent watching video, Nielsen said time spent watching live and time shifted TV was 4:20, plus 44 minutes on TV connected devices, 10 seconds on smartphones and 5 seconds each on computers and tablets.

Compared to the time spent watching video, the average time adults spent on social media in the second quarter was just 44 seconds per day, with 34 of those seconds on a smartphone.

The report found a lot of simultaneous usage of devices. When Nielsen asked how often do you watch TV and use a digital device simultaneously, 9% said always, 36% said very often, and 28% said sometimes.

Respondents said they were using those digital devices to look up information related to the content (71%), email or text messages about the content (41%), look up or shop for a product or service being advertised (35%), write or reach posts about the content on social media (28%) and switch to different content after seeing something online (15%).

Nielsen looked at when media was being consumed and found that primetime was indeed prime time. During the 9 p.m. hour, media usage peaked at 37 minutes and 20 seconds per adult and live as did live and time-shifted TV usage.

Despite headlines about digital devices, Nielsen reported that 73% of media time spent at 11 p.m. is consumed through the TV glass.

TV remains strong as a mass medium, reaching 87% of adults weekly. Connected devices reach 36% in terms of weekly reach among adults at 87%, apps and web use on a smartphone reach 78%.

The percentage of U.S. TV households with a multichannel subscription was 80.8% in June, down from 82.7% in June 2017. That number includes 77.4% of TV homes having traditional cable, a big drop from 81.3% a year ago, plus 3.4% subscribing to virtual MVPDs, more than double the 1.4% a year ago.

Over the air households rose to 12.9% from 12.6 and broadband only homes jumped to 6.3% from 4.7%.

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