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Study: Net doesn't affect TV habits

A new Nielsen Media Research study finds that the Net has had little effect on television viewing, warranting a sigh of relief from TV stations across the country.

In what could warrant a sigh of relief from television stations across the country, a new Nielsen Media Research study finds that the Net has had little effect on television viewing.

The study's primary finding was that households with Internet access already watch less television on average than non-Net households. Furthermore, non-Net households showed little change in their television habits once they gained Internet access.

In other words, the Internet itself may not cause households to watch less television, or to choose television-watching over accessing the Internet.

Nielsen maintains that more research is necessary before any causal conclusions can be drawn between TV and the Net. "Further study will be necessary to determine if our findings relating to Internet access remain constant over time and as Internet penetration becomes more widespread," Ed DeNicola, marketing representative for Nielsen, said in a statement.

Nevertheless, the study's results may assuage the fears of broadcast media outlets that the Internet is drawing away their audience--and with their advertising dollars.

That won't come as good news to the many Internet companies that have used behavioral studies projecting a decrease in television viewing as a result of the Net as marketing devices aimed at warming advertisers' hearts.

In August, for example, AOL released Nielsen data announcing that wired households watch 15 percent less television than households without Net access. While AOL claimed the figures demonstrated that advertisers are beginning take interactive marketing more seriously, Nielsen warned that the findings in no way reflected causality.

Instead, Nielsen said that most households connected to the Internet are generally categorized as "upper-demographic," meaning their age and income levels are higher than those of average Americans. This demographic group tends to watch less television than those in lower-income and younger demographic groups.

Upon further investigation of AOL's Nielsen study, it is worth noting that the figures barely changed from a similar study conducted a year earlier.