Now that smartphone penetration in the US is near complete, the TV device market is once again driving media and audience trends.
The share of households with traditional cable dropped about 4% from a year ago, but opportunities are opening for broadcasters because viewers have so many more options for television than they’ve ever had before, Katsingris said.
Fewer people get the traditional TV package, for instance, but the old-school TV antenna, which Nielsen categorizes as “over the air” television, is staging a revival, ticking up to almost 13% of all US homes. That’s because people are figuring out how to juggle streaming subscriptions and monthly cable and wireless contracts, with some opting for ad-free streaming with a dash of TV from local stations broadcast by NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and PBS they can pick up with newfangled rabbit-ears.
There’s still a long runway for virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs), which deliver TV content over the internet, like DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Hulu Live and YouTube TV. The number of homes with an vMVPD service grew from 1.4% to 3.4% in a year, and is up to above 4% since this summer, Katsingris said. Half of those vMVPD viewers have no other television content, while 15% also have a cable subscription.
The rise of simultaneous media consumption
Total media consumption – with the average US adult viewing more than 10 hours of media per day – can be staggering considering there are only 24 hours in a day. But Nielsen found multiple devices share the same hours.
Forty-five percent of Americans always or very often watch TV while also using a phone or tablet. And though only 6% of people use audio devices like smart home speakers while they’re watching TV, Katsingris said it’s a particularly compelling trend for media companies and advertisers.
“If you dig in to how people are using secondary devices while they watch TV or stream something, the main use cases include looking up information related to the content or looking for more details on a product or ad they saw, sometimes even shopping directly,” he said.
The connection between smart home devices and TV is just coming into focus now. Nielsen doesn’t have year-over-year numbers on smart home speaker adoption, for instance, because it’s only recently added new data sources that give a fuller picture of adoption.
Audio has the most growth
Radio reaches 92% of US adults every week, more than any other media channel, according to the Nielsen report.
“Radio is one thing that surprises a lot of people,” Katsingris said. “But it’s free, mobile, in people’s cars, at their work, and just reaches more people than many expect.”
But audio is the highest-growth category in terms of media market share. Almost a fifth of Americans now listen to podcasts and 43% stream audio from their phone. And that growth is also coming on the back of smart speakers, which are rapidly penetrating US households.