Young Adults Consume Less Media Than Their Parents, Nielsen Report Says

The stereotype of the phone-addicted millennial isn't borne out in the ratings service's latest Total Audience Report.
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The phone-addled millennial may not be a real thing.

The stereotype of young people being forever tethered to their smartphones is wrong.

The one where the youngs watch a lot less TV than older age groups, though? That's true.

Those are two findings that jump out from Nielsen's latest Total Audience Report, which covers the second quarter of 2018.

The average adult spends 10 hours, 24 minutes consuming media each day, the report says. That's down by 33 minutes over the first quarter — an unsurprising dip as seasonal effects kicked in. TV usage goes down, for instance, when daylight saving time begins in the spring. Total time is similar to that of the third quarter of 2017 (10:30).

A little more than half of that time (5 hours, 24 minutes) is video consumption: via live and delayed TV (4:20); TV-connected devices (the Apple TVs and Rokus of the world, plus game consoles and Smart TV apps (44 minutes); and video watched on smartphones, computers or tablets (20 minutes).

Contrary to the image of the phone-addicted millennial or Gen Z-er, adults 18-34 have the smallest media diet with just over eight hours per day. Their average time spent with a smartphone, 2:31, is 20 minutes less than that of the heaviest phone users, the 35-49 cohort.

Young adults do spend a higher percentage of their media time on digital devices at 44 percent, compared to 40 percent for the 35-49 age group, 31 percent for adults 50-64 and 23 percent for those 65 and older.

The heaviest consumers of media are adults 50-64, who spend nearly half the day — 11 hours, 49 minutes — in front of a screen or listening to the radio (including digital streams of over-the-air broadcasts).

People 65 and older are by far the biggest watchers of live and time-shifted TV, watching nearly seven hours per day. That figure falls significantly for each younger age group Nielsen measures, offering some insight into the continuing ratings erosion for younger demos. Adults 50-64 watch 19 percent less TV than those 65 and up; 35-49ers watch 35 percent less than the 50-64 group; and the 18-34s watch 46 percent less than 35-49s. The average adult 18-34 watches less than half the amount of live or delayed TV programming as people their parents' age.

Some other findings from the report:

- 45 percent of respondents said they use a digital device often or always while watching TV, most often to look up something related to the content or to message others about it.

- African-American adults consume more media than any other group at 12 hours, 46 minutes. Hispanic- (9:09) and Asian-American adults (6:46, not including radio) consume less than the average for the total population.

- Media usage peaks at 9 p.m., with almost 38 minutes of consumption in the hour — the majority coming from TV and TV-connected devices. From 8 p.m. to midnight, two-thirds of media usage comes via a TV screen.

- 3.4 percent of households used virtual TV providers like Hulu Live or DirecTV Now, more than double the amount (1.4 percent) from the second quarter of 2017.

- Asian-Americans are most likely to subscribe to a streaming service, with 78 percent saying they use at least one. That's compared to 66 percent of the total population.