TV watchers are facing a 'paradox of choice', Nielsen finds

Marketers and content owners will have to cut through the noise to reach TV consumers

US adults spend more than 11 hours of the day connected with media, with five hours and 46 minutes of that time spent watching television-like content – an 11-minute drop in TV consumption compared to the same time last year.

The figures were published in Nielsen's Total Audience Report for Q1 2019, which attributed the drop to the lack of special TV happenings, such as the Winter Olympics, which didn’t air this year.

The report stated, however, "anyone thinking the consumptive sky is falling shouldn’t panic."

The sky may not be falling for advertisers or content creators, but consumers might be feeling the walls closing in.

In a study on TV consumption among streaming service users, who were allowed to select two options in a survey, 66% said they know exactly what they want to watch when they start watching.

However, a combined 55% of consumers said they normally have either only a rough idea or no idea at all of what they want to watch.

Seven in 10 US homes have a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service and 72% use streaming-capable TV devices, the study found. It takes consumers aged 18-34 about 9.4 minutes to shuffle through content menus and find something to watch – the highest mark among all age demographics.

For the purpose of this report, Nielsen limited its platform study to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, though a Nielsen spokesperon said consumers don't differentiate between the menu from one service versus another, so the experience is likely the same.

So while there's a deluge of content on offer, Nielsen explained consumers are facing a "paradox of choice". To resolve this, consumers are likely to fall back to old favorites.

Among streaming service users, 58% are likely to go back to their favorite traditional channels, 44% like to scan through traditional channel options, 39% scan program listings and 31% browse their DVR recordings.

Only one-third of respondents age 18-and-up say they browse their SVOD menus for more content, while 21% say they'd stop watching more content altogether, suggesting there's still an appetite for lean-back, linear programming – even in digital.

"Content discovery... is crucial to consumers in an era when they’re inundated with ads and content," Peter Katsingris, Nielsen's senior-vice president of audience insights, wrote in the report. "Conversely, these same consumers are connecting to this fragmented content at unparalleled rates – well over 11 hours each day across screens and devices.

"So it’s never been more critical for content owners and marketers to cut through the clutter, and maybe even spur some disloyalty, to ensure that their offerings stand out from everything else."

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