Americans turn to TV as recession hits spending

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More U.S. consumers have turned to the great American pastime of watching television as the recession strained household budgets, a survey set to be released on Tuesday shows.

April Metts and her two-year old son Jamar watch television at her apartment in Providence, Rhode Island November 18, 2009. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

More than a third of Americans ranked watching TV, either live or using an On Demand feature or digital video recorder, as their favorite media activity, a 26 percent jump over 2008, the survey of U.S. entertainment preferences says.

Nearly three-quarters of the respondents, aged 14 to 75, said hard times had cut into purchases of tickets to movies, concerts and sporting events as well as DVDs and video games.

Average TV watching per week surged to nearly 18 hours from less than 16 hours last year, with Internet-savvy millenials -- the generation born between 1980 and 1995 -- charting the largest increase, Deloitte’s 2009 State of the Media Democracy survey says.

“Television was a big beneficiary of (the recession),” Ed Moran, director of insights and innovation at Deloitte, said in an interview. “The data does not support the demise of television, and advertising on television is still more effective than online ads.”

TV’s renaissance also may be ascribed to viewers’ growing passion for their favorite shows, Moran said.

“There is much more passion around TV shows and they are using TiVos and DVRs to watch what they want to watch,” Moran said. That attachment is fueling better-targeted ads that have become increasingly effective, he said.

While 83 percent of consumer ranked TV ads among the top three media that influence their purchasing decisions, more than half of all U.S. consumers and 69 percent of millenials say online customer reviews of products and ratings influence their buying decisions, the survey showed.

About a quarter of respondents said they’d like an online service that recommends products based on other people’s preferences, the survey showed.

At the same time, online consumers showed a sharply decreasing inclination to click on Internet ads, even if they wanted more information about a product, the survey showed.

“It’s becoming more and more clear that the ‘interrupt’ model (of Internet advertising) is less effective than working with people around (consumers) to influence their purchasing behavior,” Moran said. “There is really pointed data here about how important online recommendations are. I think a lot of retailers are missing the boat.”

About a quarter of U.S. consumers socialize on the Web daily and nearly 60 percent maintain a social networking site, up from 48 percent a year ago, the survey showed.

Reporting by Gina Keating; Editing by Neil Fullick