Americans on average watched 90 minutes a week less traditional television in the first quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year, according to an analysis of Nielsen data by informitv. They are generally watching more timeshifted television but less traditional television overall. Internet video viewing is rising rapidly, with young adults watching nearly 2 hours 15 minutes a week, but average online viewing of 40 minutes a week does not compensate for the overall reduction in television viewing.

These comparisons are based on an analysis by informitv of the Nielsen Cross Platform Report for Q1 2012 with that for Q1 2011, using comparable periods to avoid seasonal viewing effects.

Across the American population of 298 million aged over 2 years, average weekly viewing of traditional television declined from 35 hours 37 minutes in Q1 2011 to 34 hours 7 minutes in Q2 2012 — a significant 4% loss of 90 minutes a week.

Timeshifted playback, from digital video recorders or video on demand services, increased by a quarter of an hour to 2 hours 40 minutes a week but not enough to compensate for the overall decrease in viewing. In those homes with digital video recorders, timeshifted viewing accounted for 5 hours and 47 minutes a week, or 17% of total viewing.

Some might imagine that this is characteristic of younger viewers who tend to be earlier adopters of technology. In fact, timeshifting seems to be proportional to television viewing as a whole. Viewers aged 12-17, who watch the least television, also timeshift less, at 3 hours 25 minutes a week. Those aged 50-64 watch the most timeshifted television, at 7 hours 9 minutes a week.

The year-on-year decline in television viewing is lower among those aged 25-34, watching 48 minutes less a week. As one might expect, it is most dramatic among teenagers, who generally watch the least television, but they watched two hours less a week in Q1 2012. Young adults watched over 100 minutes less television a week, as did those aged 50-64.

This appears to suggest a dramatic decline in television viewing, despite the apparent industry belief that people are watching more television than ever and that digital video recorders are contributing to this. The increase in timeshifting may suggest that they are watching more television that they actually want to watch, but they are probably watching less advertising as a result.

Watching video on the internet accounts for 40 minutes a week of viewing on average across the total American population aged over 2 years. It was reported to be 33 minutes a week a year previously, although an improved measurement methodology means that this is not directly comparable.

Among those watching online video, average viewing is almost 1 hour 15 minutes a week. It is not just teenagers. In fact they watch less than 50 minutes a week, while young adults aged 18-24 watch the most at 2 hours 13 minutes a week and those aged 25-34 watch 1 hour 39 minutes a week.

While some viewing is shifting to other devices, traditional television household penetration is also slowly declining, now at just under 96% of homes, a loss of 1.8% over a year.

Americans are still watching an enormous amount of traditional television. If timeshifting, recorded media and video games are also taken into account, they are using television for 8 minutes a day less than a year ago, but it still amounts to almost 5.5 hours a day.

The Cross-Platform Report Quarter 1, 2012 is published by Nielsen and provides breakdowns of viewing by technology and demographic.