BIA Perspectives

by Rick Ducey

The answer is “not very,” and it cost the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence $3.5 million to find this out in a study conducted by Ball State University’s Center for Media Design and Sequent Partners. Mike Bloxham, from Ball State’s CMD was the project’s director and is a keynote speaker at BIA’s “Winning Media Strategies” being held May 20-22, 2009 in Washington, DC. While preliminary have been released, additional findings and further discussion will be presented at the Winning Media Strategies conference.

What kinds of surprises did we get from the study? First, the time spent with video media holds pretty constant across age groups except for the 45-54 years old group which spent an extra hour day in front of screens. This breaks the image of younger audiences being the screen hogs. We also learned that multitasking is not the sole province of the younger generation – all age groups multitask at the same levels except the 55+ age group. The study also shows that while TV is king, the computer is now queen, coming in as the second most used medium displacing radio. Also, and perhaps not a surprise, consumers are pretty bad at reporting their own media behavior accurately.

This ground breaking study was conducted over the course of a year. Bloxham’s team of research directly observed and recorded in ten second intervals consumer exposure to four categories of video platforms: (1) traditional television (including live TV, DVD/DVR/VCR playback; (2) computer (including Web, email, IM, downloaded or streaming video); (3) mobile devices and (4) all other screens (e.g, GPS, in-cinema movies, out-of-home video). This generated over 750 thousand minutes of observational data by researchers using handheld smart keyboards with custom software.

Mike Bloxham explained that this study is unique in that it is focused on the audience first and the media second. In other words, it’s not a study about TV or Web or Mobile. It’s a study, the largest of its kind that tracks consumer use of video regardless of the platform.

Some of the key findings are:

  1. Although the composition of consumers’ screen media time varied across age groups, their total screen time was strikingly similar, except among those Adults 45-54, whose screen time was highest.
  2. The degree of concurrent screen media exposure (also referred to as media multitasking) was equivalent for all age groups under 55.
  3. The study confirmed that 99% of Nielsen’s Three-Screen Time is TV. Even among Adults 18-24, TV represented more than 98%.
  4. Live TV led all video time by a large margin, followed by DVDs, with DVRs third.
  5. The study suggests that computing has displaced radio as the number two media activity. Radio is now number three and print is number four.
  6. New HDTV ownership (first or second set) led to higher TV exposure, though some of this increase appeared to be temporary.
  7. Early DVR owners spent much more time with DVR playback than new DVR owners.
  8. A higher percentage of TV time was spent as sole medium compared with computers, print or audio. DVR Playback was even more likely than live TV to be a sole medium.
  9. TV users were exposed to on average roughly an hour a day of live TV ads and promos.
  10. Serious caution needs to be applied in interpreting self-report data for media use. TV was substantially under-reported while online video and mobile video were over-reported.