The rise of internet streaming, DVD and on-demand, as well as alternative TV usage for gaming has led to a small year over year reduction in live TV viewing, down 5 minutes. At the same time, "Americans added another 5 hours in front of the computer screen in Q2 2012 as well, using the Internet or watching video content." While this usage is being done at the same time as the TV is on or separate, 5 hours seems a substantial increase. In fact, Nielsen research shows "Close to 40 percent of Americans say they now use their tablets and smartphones while watching TV at least once a day. As many as twice that amount of people do it at least once a month."
Our viewing preferences are clearly shifting but is this problematic for live TV? Does a 5 minute reduction mean a growing trend? It seems we have always been multi-taskers in front of our TV sets. Whether reading a magazine, talking on the phone, eating a snack, or playing a game, we have treated the TV as background noise. Only with high involvement type programming, especially sports, are we drawn more into the TV set. So the growing use of computers and tablets while the TV is on seems consistent with how we have always treated our relationship with the TV set. In fact, the large screen size of the TV set makes it ideal for other non-live usage, from Netflix viewing to X-Box gaming. Live TV usage may decline as viewing our our terms becomes more and more valued.
At the same time, content companies may need to shift to more live programming to keep audiences attentive. Live showings of The Voice or American Idol and end of show voting and results are great examples of TV networks taking advantage of the benefit of live programming. News and sports also attract live viewing. It seems the most important requirement remains that the TV set remain in the on position.