Young and Restless: Multiscreen Media’s Experts
Kids’ TV Viewing Hits 20-Year High,
Despite Rapidly Growing Internet Use
The average kid now grows up in a home that receives more than 100 channels. Yet, kids in broadband Internet homes manage to spend 16 hours and 48 minutes a week on the Internet. They make 8.8 cell phone calls a day and send an average of 14.4 text messages. Most (69%) have a TV set in their bedroom.
Not surprisingly, they are also experts at multitasking their way through a multiscreen media world. Kids ages 8 to 14 manage to compress 8 hours and 26 minutes worth of media use into about 6 hours and 13 minutes. Using more than one medium at a time accounts for about 26% of their usage.
Those are some of the results of Nickelodeon’s “New Normal” study of kids.
“There is a huge appetite for video among kids across all platforms,” said Ron Geraci, senior vice president of research at Nickelodeon. “They are accessing video on the TV, online, with VOD, on handhelds. Pretty much anywhere it is available.”
But Geraci and others are quick to point out that drawing long-term conclusions about the future of television from the behavior of kids and even teens isn’t easy.
“It is very important not to get caught up in all the hype about newer platforms when you are focusing on kids aged 10 to 12,” Nickelodeon Television vice president and general manager Tom Ascheim said. “I was just at a focus group where they were asking kids [in the 4th to 6th grade] if they had heard of YouTube. No one had. Only a few had iPods. There isn’t necessarily a lot of use or awareness of some of these offerings until you get a little older.”
Despite rapidly growing Internet usage, kids’ television viewing is at a 20-year high at 23 hours and 3 minutes per week, according to Marsha Williams, senior vice president in charge of brand and consumer insight at Nickelodeon Research and Planning.
Even so, kids still found time for a staggering amount of online usage.
“Visitors to our Web site played over 1 billion games in the first 10 months of this year,” Cartoon Network executive vice president and general manager Jim Samples said.
And, while games remain the biggest attraction, site users are watching “millions of streams a week,” Cartoon senior vice president of new media Paul Condolora said.
Video-on-demand usage is also growing. Viewers ordered 6.5 million of Cartoon’s on-demand programs in August, up 145% over the previous year.
“The kids space is one of the driving factors in growing VOD usage,” Condolora said. “Kids programming is typically the third most popular VOD genre.”
Cartoon is also developing original content for its online and mobile TV services, Samples said. The company developed 75 two- and three-minute episodes for mobile and online in 2006 and plans another 75 in 2007.
Cartoon and Nickelodeon are using the growing online audience to promote linear TV offerings. In October, to promote a “SpongeBob Best Day Ever” full day of SpongeBob Squarepants cartoons, Nickelodeon invited kids to vote on their favorite SpongeBob episodes. Users responded by streaming 5 million cartoons and placing 3.2 million votes. When the “Best Day Ever” game went live on Nov. 9, 1.3 million users played.
The network’s Nov. 10 all-day marathon became the highest-rated day in Nickelodeon’s history.
Teens by all accounts are even more likely to access video on other platforms. The Cable Advertising Bureau’s “Which Screen” survey of 2,100 people that was released in September found that teens would rather have a computer than a TV if they had to choose only one device.
Teens were also some 20% to 30% more likely to access video on iPods or gaming consoles, said Ira Sussman, vice president of research and Insights at CAB.
“There is no doubt that those who are taking advantage of broadband connections or handheld devices to access video are younger,” Horowitz Associates president Howard Horowitz said. “Those devices skew young and the skew is pronounced because up until the age of 24, they may not have access to a fixed television like other adults. If they are teens, the TV might be in their parents’ living room. Their one and only private space is on the Internet and with their cell phone.”
Even so, television is still the primary way to access video. “You have universal TV penetration and then you drop like a rock for usage of video on all the others to under 20%,” Horowitz said. “When you talk about a shift in accessing video, it isn’t so much a shift from TV to the Internet and other devices. It’s a shift in the nature of the Internet. It is shifting from text to video.”
That view is confirmed by a number of studies, including the “Which Screen” survey. About 80% of all teens 12- to 17-years-old reported they were watching more video on television, according to Sussman. Only 3% said they were watching less TV.
The CAB study also found that “multiple screens are a lot less ubiquitious than people believe,” Sussman said. Only 6% of respondents owned all five screens — televisions, computers, cell phones, iPods and portable video players, like Sony’s PlayStation Portable.
“We also found that, except on the TV set, the use of video was way down among the reasons why people were using these other platforms,” Sussman said. “When people had to choose between what screen they wanted to use for video, they chose the bigger screen.”
The growing penetration of high-definition and big-screen televisions will make traditional schedule-based television an even more attractive option in years ahead, Sussman and other executives argued.
“I am eagerly anticipating December 26th of this year, when everyone who got an HDTV this Christmas calls us up to sign up for our HD service,” said Cox Communications vice president of video product development Steve Necessary.