Ars Technica

By Jacqui Cheng.

“Live broadcast TV still dominates all other video sources in the US. Mobile and Internet video might be surging, DVR use might be skyrocketing, but it’s traditional TV that keeps people glued to their sets for an average of five hours a day.”

Despite the growing popularity of online video options, average TV watchers still get most of their TV exposure from switching on the ol’ boob tube and watching whatever’s available at the moment. DVRs, web video, and even mobile devices are gaining in prominence, according to a new report by the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence (CRE). Still, when it comes to sitting back, turning your brain off, and watching objects move on a screen, traditional TV viewing remains king.

The average TV viewer over the age of 18 watches 309.1 minutes, or about 5.15 hours, of live broadcast shows per day. (Does that horrify you as much as it horrifies us?) This compares to an average of just 14.6 minutes of playback via DVR or TiVo, 22.9 minutes of playback through a DVD player or VCR, and 2.4 minutes on the computer/Internet.

Even the youngest age group, 18 to 24 year olds, watches significantly more TV the old-fashioned way every day than by any other method: 209.9 minutes (almost 3.5 hours) on the tube, 17.2 minutes on a DVR, and 5.5 minutes on the computer. Predictably, newfangled habits like Internet video viewing decrease as the age groups increase, while traditional TV viewing goes up—senior citizens watch 0.2 minutes of video on the computer and 420.5 (yes, that’s over 7 hours) of broadcast TV every single day. Mobile video never registers above 0.1 minutes per day in any age group.

“Despite the proliferation of computers, video-capable mobile phones and similar devices, TV in the home still commands the greatest amount of viewing,” wrote CRE. “Thus, in the eyes of the researchers, this appears to dispute a common belief that Internet video and mobile phone video exposure among that group (and the next one up, age 25-34) were significant in 2008.”

Don’t go thinking that these people are just keeping the TV on in the background as they do other things, either. CRE spent $3.5 million on its extensive Consumer Mapping Study over the last year in order to collect data on people’s TV viewing habits—instead of simply relying on self-reported or machine-collected data, each individual wore devices that recorded their exposure to different video mediums—the results were observed and analyzed by CRE researchers. CRE and Nielsen claim that this is “the largest and most extensive observational study of media usage ever conducted.”

CRE’s data doesn’t dispute the fact that Internet and mobile video have both been explosive over the last year or so, just that they remain relatively minor. In May of 2008, US viewers watched some 12 billion videos on the Internet according to comScore, up 45 percent from a year earlier. Unsurprisingly, Google owned the largest share of that pie thanks to YouTube. And even though mobile video viewing is just now getting off the ground, NBC said that it managed to get almost half a million users to watch the 2008 Olympic Games on their mobile devices, many of whom had never done so before.

CRE’s findings should come as a relief to TV advertisers, who have long feared that their once-lucrative ads were being passed over for the web or skipped on a DVR. CRE said that users were directly exposed to an average of 72 minutes of TV advertising per day, “dispelling a commonly held belief that modern consumers are channel-hopping or otherwise avoiding most of the advertising in the programming they view.”