Average time spent with digital media per day will surpass TV viewing time for the first time this year, according to eMarketer’s latest estimate of media consumption among US adults. The average adult will spend over 5 hours per day online, on nonvoice mobile activities or with other digital media this year, eMarketer estimates, compared to 4 hours and 31 minutes watching television. Daily TV time will actually be down slightly this year, while digital media consumption will be up 15.8%. The most significant growth area is on mobile. Adults will spend an average of 2 hours and 21 minutes per day on nonvoice mobile activities, including mobile internet usage on phones and tablets—longer than they will spend online on desktop and laptop computers, and nearly an hour more than they spent on mobile last year.
This is eMarketer’s first time breaking out time spent on tablets and smartphones. It’s also eMarketer’s first time creating an overall time spent with digital figure. Previously, online time (desktop, laptop) and mobile time (on feature phones, smartphones and tablets) were kept separate. eMarketer’s estimates of time spent with media include all time spent within each medium, regardless of multitasking. Consumers who spend an hour watching TV while multitasking on tablet devices, for example, would be counted as spending an hour with TV and an additional hour on mobile. Such multitasking helps to contribute to the increase in the overall time people spend with media each day, which eMarketer expects to rise from 11 hours and 39 minutes in 2012 to 11 hours and 52 minutes this year.
Time spent with mobile has come to represent a little more than half of TV’s share of total media time, as well as more than half of digital media time as a whole. The bulk of mobile time is spent on smartphones, at 1 hour and 7 minutes per day, but tablets are not far behind. Feature phones account for relatively little time spent on non-voice mobile activities, since few have robust mobile internet capabilities.
To develop their time spent with media figures, eMarketer analyzed more than 400 data points collected from more than 40 research institutions. For example, to forecast time spent on desktop and laptop computers, eMarketer compiled and evaluated figures from audience measurement companies, industry associations, academic institutions, major online media platforms and other research firms—all of which were analyzed to account for discrepancies and convergence in definitions, methodology and historical accuracy.
As a percentage of time spent with all media, eMarketer’s estimate of adults’ average time with TV is roughly in line with other firms’ for this year. Temkin Group is at the low end of estimates among all adult consumers, while MAGNAGLOBAL and GfK figures are more in line with eMarketer’s. Estimates of TV time among internet users only are somewhat lower as a share of all media (with the exception of a USA Touchpoints data point), suggesting internet users may devote somewhat less time to TV compared to online media.
Nielsen reported that in Q4 2012, US consumers spent an average of 4 hours and 39 minutes per day watching live TV, and an additional 25 minutes with DVR playback and 11 minutes with DVD playback. That adds up to 5 hours and 15 minutes spent with TV under eMarketer’s definition—significantly higher than our figure. However, Nielsen measures all time a TV is turned on, not the amount of time viewers are actually engaging with the medium.
Research firms differ dramatically in their estimates of how much time US adults spend online on desktop and laptop computers, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of total media time.
Time spent with mobile is also the subject of widespread disagreement. Estimates for 2012 usage ranged from just under an hour, averaged across all US adults, according to MAGNAGLOBAL (a figure that includes voice time, which other firms do not) to 2 hours, among the same population.
Research firms agree more closely on time spent with tablets—at least when measured among tablet users. eMarketer estimates tablet users spent nearly 2 hours per day with their devices in 2012; the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and Pew Research had estimates within 10 minutes of that. Averaged across the larger population of US adults, the figure goes down significantly, and research firms that measured tablet usage among other groups that include many consumers who do not own a tablet also reported lower figures.