A new report from the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau says that millennials, women 18-24 in particular, are not cutting the cord as quickly as previously thought. In fact, TV's share of viewing hours grew from 84 to 88 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013 (data in the study was sourced from the Nielsen Cross-Platform Report), from 129 total hours out of 133 overall to 111 hours out of 113 overall. Yes, that's still shrinkage in terms of absolute time spent (and the cable-free rate for men is higher), but it is notably less time watching digital video.
Further, the study found that young women spend nearly four times as much of their time watching cable as they do broadcast—more than 16 hours surfing cable vs. 4.5 with the broadcast networks. Much of that may simply be that the women in this survey are predominately college students, but the CAB sees it as a hopeful sign.
Danielle Delauro, svp, strategic sales insights for CAB, concedes that digital video is getting bigger, but says that that's not necessarily a bad thing for TV. "[Young women] are consuming more video than ever before in their lives, but that's additive to television," she said. "People are always just looking for whatever the best screen available is, and the best screen is television across all demographics."
While it is admittedly in the business of television, the CAB says it has data to back up the claim that people prefer the TV to the mobile phone or the tablet. "We've done multiple studies that show the larger the screen size the more people are likely to sit down for a long period of time," Delauro said. "It's just because the picture's better and it's more comfortable for them to watch. If you set all the devices down in front of them and said, 'You can watch your favorite show on any of them,' they'd pick TV every time."
But the big hurdle for companies producing content that relies on advertising revenue isn't competing with upstart video companies; it's monetizing the content they already have. "Once [content owners] figure out mobile measurement, I think they're going to be able to get that into all of the mobile devices," said Delauro. "I think if they can figure out a way to get it into some of the devices, there's a way to get it into all the mobile devices."
Oddly, she said, the passing of Apple's founder may allow video-makers to catch up to consumer adoption. "Without Steve Jobs around, there just isn't as much innovation," she said. "We hit the tablet, but I don't see anything coming in the next year or two."
The innovation, she stressed, has been a good thing, though. "Everyone's working as quickly as they can, but unfortunately—actually, no, fortunately—consumer adoption and appetite for content outpaces what we're able to do as an industry," she said.
You can check out the full presentation here.