Channeling TV

January 10, 2017

By Hadassa Gerber

Partner Content



Everywhere you turn there's an article discussing new forms of technology and media making their way to the masses. And it's true — the media landscape is always changing. There are new ways to read articles, to watch your favorite shows, to go to the movies, to interact with social media, and to view content; and even newer forms of technology and media are on the horizon. Given this ever-expanding landscape, it's easy to assume that digital totally dominates people's media consumption and no one watches television anymore. But the research and facts speak to another truth — across every demographic TV is still an effective and powerful medium.

Each quarter Nielsen's Total Audience report shows time spent on both digital and traditional platforms, and it consistently shows that people spend far more time with television than they do with any other platform. In addition, the last few reports have shown that, in spite of increased time spent with digital products such as tablets and smartphones, consumers still continue to spend a comparable amount of time with TV as they did in the previous year.

The Nielsen study, however, is limited to the platforms Nielsen measures; it doesn't include print, as an example. So, to gain a better understanding of the dynamics of media in a broader platform spectrum, the TVB turned to GfK, a trusted leader in market research, to conduct the 2016 Media Comparisons Study. The study compares multiple ad-supported media platforms — including newspapers, magazines, and social media — in terms of reach, influence, engagement, trust, and time spent among important demographic groups. The study was conducted using two different surveys, one that focused on attitudinal questions (base of 1,650 respondents), and one that focused on reach and time spent (base of 1,100 respondents).

Findings from the study show that television has the highest reach among all ad-supported platforms, both traditional and digital. Television, which includes broadcast and cable, has a reach of 75.7 percent, while the next closest medium, email, comes in at 62.5 percent. How did some of the other digital media do? Smartphones have a reach of 49.5 percent, social media has a reach of 45.7 percent, and search has a reach of 43.9 percent. These all fall substantially lower in their reach than TV.



Reach is important, but it does not discern between those who use a media platform for seconds and those who use a media platform for hours. A better measure of engagement is the time people are willing to invest with a media platform. Despite all the digital hype, the fact remains: American consumers spend more time with television than all other ad-supported media platforms measured in the study, combined.

To get a better sense of this vast difference, consider these findings: Adults 18 years old and older spend four hours and 54 minutes with TV per day, one hour and two minutes with radio (though this does not include internet radio), 56 minutes with email, 50 minutes with social media, 26 minutes with search, and 17 minutes with newspapers.



Can that be true across all demographics? After all, it's so often said that Millennials no longer watch television. While Millennials do consume more digital content than other demographics, TV is still, by far, their most used platform of any medium, traditional or digital. In fact, adults 18 to 34 consume three times more television than they use the next closest platform, social media.



While reach and time spent are valuable metrics for advertisers and media planners, it's also important to better understand how consumers' purchasing choices are affected by various media. When asked which advertising medium most influences their purchase decisions, 37 percent of respondents chose television — almost three times the second most-popular medium, newspapers. Furthermore, 30 percent of those surveyed agreed that they were most motivated by TV to learn more about the advertised product or service.



Today, news programming is everywhere, from Facebook feeds to Twitter and across a multitude of channels and platforms. Advertisers need to know not only which news sources are the most viewed but which are the most trusted. There's a common misconception that people no longer rely on TV for news, but when asked which source is their primary go-to destination for all news, the No. 1 answer was local broadcast TV news (cited by 22 percent of respondents), beating cable, newspapers, social media, and radio.



When it comes to trust, local broadcast TV news overwhelmingly came out above all other sources. Seventy-nine percent of respondents agreed that they trust the news on local broadcast TV more than public television (75 percent), network broadcast TV news (71 percent), and cable news (65 percent). Regardless of age group, social media was consistently ranked the least trusted media source.



While various articles describe TV's decline as inevitable and tout digital as the ascending golden child, it's important to realize these two media don't have to be at odds with one another. In fact, for advertisers, it's necessary to view them as complementary. Internet usage skews toward the day, while television usage peaks in the evening. In addition, most people agree that an advertisement on television has motivated them to go to the internet to find out more information about a product or service.



Over the past decade, broadcast TV websites and apps have grown significantly — they're highly trusted go-to sources for consumers. The bulk of a campaign's reach is still generated through television. However, advertisers can extend this reach through the addition of broadcast websites with the added benefit of premium online content that is synergistic. For example, combining TV with broadcast websites results in a 5 percent increase in reach among car buyers, and nearly a 10 percent increase in reach among home buyers.



In a highly fragmented media environment, the most helpful information for advertisers shows them how to use platforms to their benefit to simultaneously ensure the most reach, engagement, trust, and effect for their advertising dollars. The smart money is in channeling local broadcast TV — the engine that drives and complements every media platform.


Hadassa Gerber is the chief research officer at the TVB. You can email her at TVB Marketing Research Director Andrew Karamouzis, who was heavily involved in the Media Comparison Study, also contributed to this article. You can email him at



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