Are Heavy Online Streamers Watching Less TV?

Nielsen’s first quarter 2011 Cross-Platform Report shows that the top quintile of online video streamers, in terms of time spent, consume somewhat less TV than other groups.    We can’t assume causality from the findings; heavy online streaming may reduce TV viewing or heavy online streamers may be lighter TV viewers to begin with.    But it’s an interesting finding either way, as shown by the squiggly line charts in the Nielsen report that I’ve lifted below:

There are a couple of different threads that can be pulled out of this information; an alternate visual may help to tease them out.   What I’ve done below is plot the online streaming quintiles, ranging from lightest (5) to heaviest (1), on a scatter plot with average daily minutes of streaming and average daily minutes of TV as x and y axes.   I’ve put 4Q 2010 and 1Q 2011 on the same scatter plot and connected the dots for each time period.

The first thing to note from this reconfigured chart:  TV viewing for the first quarter is on a much higher plane than the fourth quarter.   The two periods seem so different, as far as media behavior is concerned, that we can’t really trend between the two; all we can do it see if there’s consistency to the story.

There seems a great deal of consistency in the behavior patterns reflected by the streaming quintiles:

  • Quintile 5 in 1Q 2011: very heavy TV with virtually no online video.  I bet if we dug into this group we’d find an older demographic profile.
  • Quintile 5 in 4Q 2010 and quintile 4 across both time periods:  relatively light TV viewers with little online streaming.  This light/light pattern may reflect an upscale group that skews toward print rather than video and/or young males who skew low across all media.
  • Quintiles 2 and 3 across both time periods:  heavy TV viewers who are also moderate online streamers.   This may represent the mainstream condition.   At this point in the story, online streaming and TV viewing are rising in tandem…
  • And then there’s quintile 1, the heaviest online streamers who, as the Nielsen report points out, show somewhat lower TV consumption than the other groups.

A couple of points about the heavy online streamers:

  • Streaming behavior is highly concentrated into this top quintile.   The graphic shows how sharply the heaviest users pull away from the other four groups in terms of time spent with streamed content.  My back-of-the-envelope from these numbers shows that the top quintile accounts for 80% of the total time spent with streamed content; in contrast the top TV quintile accounts for just 45% of total TV time spent.
  • The data begs for deeper drill-down into this quintile; demographic and behavioral characteristics.  Why are they consuming so much streaming content?  Are they sending online video over-the-top to their TV’s?
  • Yes, their TV consumption is lower than other groups but not by a whole heck of a lot.   The graphic shows, as their online streaming behavior shoots away from the pack, their TV behavior declines a bit, but nowhere near in proportion to the way their streaming behavior accelerates.

Another way to look at this is to compare TV viewing for the top streaming quintile against average TV viewing across all the quintiles.   We can see the shortfall is slight; the under-consumption of TV is far smaller than the streamed content that these consumers have added to their lives:

  •  In 4Q 2010, among P2+, the heaviest streaming quintile consumed 14.5 minutes of online streaming a day but only 4.3 minutes less TV than average
  • In 1Q 2011, among P2+, the heaviest streaming quintile consumed 18.8 minutes of online streaming a day but only 8.0 minutes less TV than average
  • There’s a much sharper equivalence between minutes of streaming and dampened TV viewing among 18-34’s specifically.   Among this demo, for 1Q 2011, the heaviest streaming quintile consumed 27.0 minutes of online streaming a day and 21.5 minutes less TV than average.   It may be, among this demo, that the sharper trade-off reflects cord cutting; I cited a J.D. Powers and Associates study in previous post that suggests perhaps 6% of younger consumers have cut the cord.

I think this analysis shows a truism about people and media; the more options we throw at them the more media they consume.   Yes, the heaviest online streamers may consume a bit less TV than other groups but, as streaming becomes a bigger part of their lives, they consume more video overall.  They don’t trade-off one medium for another to the degree that they layer them all together.    The question then becomes:  how do they make these integrations and what role does each medium play?