September 17, 2012

If traditions of TV viewing from decades past have held in any time period, primetime seems the most likely candidate. But a new GfK paper on trends in primetime use of TV sets reveals that, among the younger generations, much has changed in just the past four years.

GfK’s research shows that Generation Y (ages 13 to 32) is 30% less likely to be watching a TV network or channel "live” in the crucial first hour of primetime (8 to 9PM ET/PT, 7 to 8PM CT/MT) than they were four years ago. This linear viewing now accounts for 57% of Gen Y TV activity from 8 to 9PM, compared to 82% in 2008. Meanwhile, the proportion of Gen Y’ers who are watching recorded programs in this time period has nearly doubled, from 15% to 28%; and another 12% are looking at streaming video on their TV sets, which was not even on the radar in 2008.

Generation X (ages 33 to 46) has made substantial but less dramatic changes in its primetime TV habits. Watching a TV network or channel "live” now accounts for 65% of the Gen X audience from 8 to 9, compared to 80% four years ago. Recorded programming jumped only 5 percentage points (21% to 26%), and streaming to a TV accounts for an additional 3% of the Gen X audience from 8 to 9PM.

Viewing habits of the total 18-to-49 audience in the 8-to-9PM hour are almost identical to those of Gen X, with 64% watching TV "live” (down from 83% in 2008); 26% viewing a recorded program (up from 16%), and 7% watching streaming video on a TV.

"Primetime got its name for good reasons,” said David Tice, Senior Vice President for Media at GfK. "It used to be the time of day when TV networks and advertisers could count on viewers behaving in predictable, passive ways – taking in the programs and sponsor messages of one of four or five channels. The ability to take control of their viewing choices and schedules has transformed the primetime audience; but they are still accessible to advertisers and content providers who are willing to go where empowered viewers lead them and act as helpful co-travelers.”

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