Nielsen finds strong TV-Internet usage overlap

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nearly a third of all household Internet activity in North America takes place while the user watches television, suggesting new and old media often share rather than compete for attention, the Nielsen Company said in a report on Friday.

A man takes a closer look at third party "Extenders" that are designed to bring internet content to a television during the DigitalLife consumer electronics show in New York September 27, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

In fact, the study found that heavy Internet users are among the most dedicated of TV viewers, spending more than 250 hours a day in front of the tube, compared with the 220 hours of television watched by people who never go online.

The findings would appear to be good news for broadcasters who worry the Internet is siphoning away viewers, and with them advertising dollars. It also helps explain the apparent paradox between rising TV viewership overall and the growing popularity of new media.

“TV usage is at an all-time high, and yet there’s a lot more people using the Internet, and where does the time go, and part of the answer is that it’s happening simultaneously,” Nielsen spokesman Gary Holmes said.

The report, the first of its kind by Nielsen’s media measuring service, was based on a sample of 3,000 people in more than 1,000 households during the month of May.

The study did not differentiate among the types of Internet use engaged in by TV viewers, though the most popular online activity typically consists of Web searches, e-mail and other forms of text communication, as well as shopping, Holmes said.

Internet use overall is growing by leaps and bounds, up 9 percent year-to-year in May, he said.

But average TV viewership still dwarfs online activity in the home -- 127 hours vs. 26 hours per month among those who use the Internet, with video “streaming” on the Web accounting for just two hours and 19 minutes. As a group, teen girls are the most likely to engage in streaming, 82 percent.

While 31 percent of in-home online activity occurs at the same time the user is watching TV, the lion’s share of all household TV viewership -- almost 96 percent -- takes place apart from the Internet, the Nielsen study found.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, a higher percentage of teenage TV viewing coincides with Internet use, 5.4 percent compared with 3.8 percent for the general population, Nielsen found.

Still to come is research that explores the correlation between TV and entertainment content on the Web, and the relationship between TV commercials and online advertising, Holmes said.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Mohammad Zargham