More Americans use TV, Internet at same time

People in the U.S. are more often watching TV and surfing the Web at the same time, according to new report from Nielsen.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

The marriage of TV and the Internet continues with a new Nielsen report finding more people surfing the Web and watching TV at the same time.

During the fourth quarter of 2009, almost 60 percent of Americans spent up to 3.5 hours each month going online and watching TV together, according to Nielsen's latest "Three Screen Report" released Tuesday. Looking at the latest trends in TV viewing, online activity, and mobile phone usage, the report found that that 60 percent of the audience spent 35 percent more time simultaneously Web surfing and TV watching than they did a year prior.


"The rise in simultaneous use of the Web and TV gives the viewer a unique on-screen and off-screen relationship with TV programming," said Nielsen Company media product leader Matt O'Grady in a statement. "The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside expanded simultaneous usage argues something quite different."

People are also consuming video and media in increasingly new and nontraditional ways. Nielsen found that during the fourth quarter, traditional TV watching per month rose only 1 percent. But time-shifted TV viewing through DVRs and other recording devices jumped 25 percent, while online video usage rose 16 percent. Mobile devices like smartphones are still playing catchup here, as mobile video viewership was flat compared with the same quarter in 2008, said Nielsen.


DVRs are now in around 35 percent of American homes and the average household watches close to 35 hours of regular TV each week and 2 hours of time-shifted programs. The amount of time spent watching TV shows and other videos online is up around 16 percent from the prior year. Nielsen discovered that people typically catch TV episodes online when they miss them during a regular broadcast, but around 44 percent of those online videos are viewed in workplace. The number of Americans watching video on their mobile gadgets also jumped--rising 57 percent from the fourth quarter of 2008.

"It seems that, for the foreseeable future at least, America's love affair with the TV will continue unabashed," said O'Grady. "We seem to have an almost insatiable appetite for media, with online and mobile programming only adding to it."