What is the real story behind Nielsen’s latest Three Screen Report regarding video?

December 8, 2009 § Leave a comment

There is a story that gets told to would be journalists about the editor that commissions a young reporter to cover a notable wedding taking place in town that weekend. The day after the wedding, the editor is surprised when a story about the wedding fails to appear in the newspaper and he goes looking for the young reporter.

“Where’s the story about the wedding?!” he demands of the reporter.

“There was no wedding,” the reporter stammers back. “The groom never showed.”

The real story, as this lesson prompts us to recognize, can hide in plain sight. Failure to recognize it when it happens is not the problem of journalists alone, however. To miss the point is something that afflicts us all.

In the case of the Internet, missing the point haunts everything to do with online video.

Nielsen has just released its latest A2/M2™ Three Screen Report and this is what it says: consumers spend 99% of their video time with television. In all, consumers are in front of the tube over 4.5 hours a day. In contrast, they are in front of the Internet four hours a week, of which only 22 minutes are devoted to watching videos. On mobile devices consumers spent an average of three minutes per week watching video.

Nic Covey, Director of Cross-Platform Insights at Nielsen, trumpeted “Americans today have an insatiable appetite for not only content, but also choice. Across all age groups, we see consumers adding the Internet and mobile devices to their media diet — consuming media anytime and anywhere possible.”

One suspects that “media” is being used as a euphemism for TV in the context of online video: as in, more and more we see consumers adding the Internet and mobile to their “TV” diet.

I’m not sure about that.

Over the past year, time spent per week looking at online video grew 35% to 22 minutes, and mobile video grew 53% to three minutes. TV video remained flat at over 31 hours, not including 31 minutes of DVR. From this data, Nielsen notes that consumers are not replacing one platform for the other; they are adding (their emphasis) platforms to their schedule.

MediaPost covered the story with this happy headline: “Nielsen: TV Continues Going ‘Everywhere’

I’m not sure about that. The evidence suggests, in fact, that TV isn’t going anywhere, which strikes me as the real story.

Why is this important? Because, as usual, the Internet seems uncomfortable with itself; it keeps looking for approval from older media siblings, principally, TV. I think this is because too many of the Internet’s primary care givers are TV people and they want this child to grow up just like the last one. “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” is the sense you get from the time-keeping and yearning over Internet video.

The Internet is not TV. Hulu is not TV. I watch video online for different reasons than I watch TV. For starters, I watch TV to relax and tune-out. Online I’m engaged, video included. Conversely, I can watch 60 seconds of someone do something absurd on YouTube. I could not sit through 30 minutes of Funniest Home Videos.

The real story (and value) of online video gets buried by comparisons to television, beginning with time spent. Online video is new media. What’s that story?

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