Why TV Viewership Keeps Growing

Against all gravitational odds, TV viewership continues its inexorable rise. The average U.S. consumer now watches TV 32.9 hours per week, versus 26.3 in 2000, a +20% increase. With the growing presence and ubiquity of the web and mobile, how can this possibly be?


TV Viewing -- More Screens, More Content, More Options

Supply Drives Demand

The simple answer is supply.  Consumers now have more places, means and content to view than ever before. It’s a well established fact in many industries that supply can drive demand.


  • P&G once learned that Bounty Paper Towel rolls with +50% more sheets lasted only +33% longer.
  • In the food industry, research suggests that the more food a person is served, the more they tend to eat. 
  • Costco’s focus on large sizes is designed in part to drive increased consumption.

And when people have more TV’s, more channels, and more ways to control their viewing, guess what?  You guessed it, they consume more TV.


Drivers of TV Consumption

  1. More TV’s to View – Consumer households contain more TV’s than ever. The average household now has 2.8 TV’s, up from 2.4 in 2000. With more TV’s, there are more opportunities to watch.

    More TV's Per Home Drives More Viewership


  2. More Viewing Content – The expansion of cable and satellite TV has provided viewers more content options than ever. The average 2008 viewer had over twice the number of choices as in 2000 — 130 channels versus just 61 in 2000.
  3. More Viewing Flexibility – The rise of the DVR has provided viewers greater viewing flexibility. Time shifting is on the rise. Now consumers can record their favorite shows for playback whenever it’s convenient-and it’s easier than ever before. For an interesting take on the impact of DVR’s, see “How the DVR is Saving TV Advertising.”
  4. More Quality Viewing – The introduction of new TV technology (e.g. high definition, plasma, etc.) and digital TV have improved the viewer experience. TV picture quality has never been better.

TV Isn’t Dead

Contrary to what some would have you believe, TV is alive and even growing. What does this mean for Marketers ?


  • TV continues to be a core awareness building block for mass appeal brands. Any mass appeal brand which needs to build awareness and brand equity simply can’t ignore TV. It’s broad reaching, it’s efficient, and it’s still effective. Nielsen IAG data shows no significant decline in key advertising effectiveness metrics–awareness, branding, likeability–over the past 5 years. Great TV advertising is still just that – great.
  • Marketers need to focus more on the effect of “context” on their TV plans. Specifically, Nielsen IAG research shows that program context makes a big difference. Ads aired in high engagement TV programs have high recall and vice versa. And matching your brand’s equity to the equity of the program can enhance ad pursuasiveness.
  • TV is becoming increasingly digital and interactive. Already, many brands are experimenting with interactive TV (iTV), and new technology promises to bring web interactivity to your future TV as soon as you plug it in. As well, Marketers need to do more to understand same program/cross-platform viewing–e.g. viewing of the same program across TV, web and mobile.

Where CMO’s Should Focus

The data shows that the demise of traditional TV is way over-blown. That said, CMO’s need to push their brands to innovate in this traditional medium. Opportunities to do so abound. New targeting capabilities, ad and media effectiveness measurement approaches, interactive TV technologies, and cross-platform viewing dynamics promise to challenge Marketers even as they are reassured that TV is far from dead.


What’s your brand doing that’s new in TV ?


Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by e-mail


Get free updates of Randall Beard’s Blog by RSS reader


2 Responses to Why TV Viewership Keeps Growing

  1. Rick Blake says:


    Perhaps another driver of increased viewing is the need to stay current (or ahead) of the shows that your friends are watching. With more channels and more content there is undoubtedly more diversity in the hot shows among social networks. This desire to keep upcan be partially sated by tivo and dvd’s of entire seasons but also requires some degree of watching live if you are going to talk about it at school, the gym, or at work the next day. CMOs would be well advised to consider what shows are more likely to get talked-about among the target audience!

    • beardrs says:

      Hi Rick — Thanks for the comment. This is an interesting point and one that I’ve been thinking about. It seems to me that we need a measure of word of mouth diffusion for both advertising and TV programs. It’s an important element of marketing effectiveness that isn’t well measured to my knowledge. Also, there is recent research which shows that TV viewers tend to watch the same content across screens–they simply select the best screen available given their circumstances. This could also help explain why TV viewership continues to climb–a consumer’s preferred TV shows are now reinforced in other media channels.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: