Business 24-7

by Vigyan Arya

Adults between the ages of 18 and 35 are exposed to as much as 8.5 hours of digital broadcast daily, according to a recently-concluded study by the Council for Research Excellence, a group funded by Nielsen.

The survey conducted by Ball State University’s Centre for Media Design (CMD) and Sequent Partners dispels several popular notions about video media use.

The sweeping study on media habits of people found that Gen-Xers use digital platforms more than previously thought and that consumers under the age of 35 watch more live TV than expected. At the same time, evidence is mounting that traditional TV use is in decline among consumers in advertisers’ favourite age demographic, between 18 and 34.

These figures were a result of $3.5 million (Dh12.8m) year-long video consumer mapping study, in which participants were directly observed throughout the day by CMD researchers.

The recorded consumer exposure to visual content presented on any of four categories of screens: traditional TV, computer, mobile devices and out of home, which include cinema, in-store and even GPS devices.

The study covered more than three-quarters of a million minutes or a total of 952 observed days. The study relied on a core group of 350 participants, but that was supplemented by other groups of candidates.

Overall, live TV usage led all video time by a large margin, followed by consumption of DVDs and then digital-video-recorder usage.

The study emphasised that that younger baby boomers between the ages of 45 and 54 consume the most video media, taking in an average of just above 9.5 hours a day. Of that time, 336 minutes per day, more than five-and-a-half hours, was devoted to live TV. The young boomers also use the web an average of 46 minutes, DVR playback 17 minutes, and e-mail 51 minutes.

Meanwhile, consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 take in an average of eight-and-a-half hours of media overall, with 210 minutes – about three-and-a-half hours – devoted to live TV. The youngest consumers devote an average of 67 minutes to the web, 34 minutes to DVR playback and 20 minutes to email. The findings also established the fact that younger baby boomers (age 45-54) consume the most video media.

The young boomers “adopted the behaviour of two different groups of people – one group that is younger when it comes to digital media and one group that is older when it comes to TV,” Bill Moult, founding partner of Sequent Partners, said during a presentation of the research.

“This landmark research study makes a significant contribution to our understanding of how consumers go about accessing content across all platforms within the context of their daily lives,” said CRE Media Consumption and Engagement Committee Chair, Shari Anne Brill. “It also considerably advances the Council’s thinking regarding audience measurement priorities. Nothing of this magnitude has ever been attempted before and we expect that our entire industry will benefit from this game-changing work for years to come.”

Mike Hess, CRE Chair, added, “The scope of the study was too big and the cost too prohibitive for any one company to undertake on its own. A project of this magnitude clearly required a group effort.”

“Among the things we learned from those experiences is that people generally cannot report accurately how much time they spend with media,” said Mike Bloxham, Director of Insight and Research for Ball State’s CMD. “Some media tend to be over-reported whereas others tend to be under-

reported – sometimes to an alarming extent. Clearly, that kind of variance puts in question one’s ability to draw meaningful conclusions, and it convinced us that the observational method is the only real way to achieve accurate and reliable results.”

Added Paul Donato, Nielsen’s Chief Research Officer, “These new results are consistent with previous Nielsen studies that have found that video consumption has never been higher.”

The study formula

For mapping an accurate survey, observers used handheld smart keyboards equipped with a custom media collector program developed by Ball State.

The observers recorded – in 10-second increments – consumer exposure to visual content presented on any of four categories of screens. They are traditional television (including live TV as well as DVD/VCR and DVR playback); computer (including web use, e-mail, instant messaging and stored or streaming video); mobile devices such as a BlackBerry or iPhone (including web use, text messaging and mobile video); and “all other screens” (including display screens in out-of-home environments, in-cinema movies and other messaging and even GPS navigation units).

The study generated data covering more than three-quarters of a million minutes or a total of 952 observed days. This is the largest and most extensive observational study of media usage ever conducted.

Other findings

The research also found that:

*Contrary to some recent popular media coverage suggesting that more people are rediscovering “free TV” via the internet, computer video tends to be quite small with an average time of just two minutes (a little more than 0.5 per cent) a day.

*Despite the proliferation of computers, video-capable mobile phones and similar devices, TV in the home still commands the greatest amount of viewing, even among those ages 18-24. 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 were significant in 2008.

*TV users were exposed to 72 minutes per day of TV ads and promos – again dispelling a commonly held belief that modern consumers are channel-hopping or otherwise avoiding most of the advertising in the programming they view.

* Early DVR owners spent much more time with DVR playback than newer DVR owners. At the same time, DVR playback was even more likely than live TV to be the sole medium.