Young adults in the United States watched 10% less television in the last three months of 2014 than in the previous quarter. While online video viewing is rising, a review of previous Nielsen data by informitv suggests that it is not replacing television viewing at the same rate. As a result, overall viewing is falling among those aged 18-34.

The New York Post reports that traditional television viewing, which has been falling at about 4% a year among those aged 18 to 34, fell 10.6% in the last quarter of 2014.

Avoiding the dubious label of ‘millennials’, which suggests a generational difference in time rather than life stage, our analysis of Nielsen data suggests that young adults are not only watching less traditional television, their overall time spent viewing has also declined significantly.

Nielsen reported that in the third quarter of 2014 the average adult in the United States spent just over four and a half hours a day watching live television and a further half an hour a day watching time-shifted television.

Those aged 18-24 generally watch less traditional television any way. According to Nielsen they watched 17 hours 34 minutes a week watching television, 1 hour and 43 minutes watching time-shifted television, and 1 hour 46 minutes watching video online.

Those aged 25-34 watched traditional television for 23 hours 9 minutes a week, time-shifted for 3 hours 3 minutes, and online video for 1 hour 56 minutes.

In comparison, the 35-49 age group watched 29 minutes 41 minutes of television, 3 hours 40 minutes time shifted, and 1 hour 48 minutes viewing online.

Back in the third quarter of 2011, Nielsen reported that those aged 18-24 watched 24 hours and 11 minutes of traditional television, 1 hour 39 minutes of time-shifted television, and just 46 minutes of online video. Those aged 18-24 watched 23 hours 57 minutes of traditional television, 1 hour 39 minutes time-shifted, and 53 minutes online video.

The conclusion seems clear. Young adults in America appear to be watching less traditional television and more online video.

More significantly, the total time young adults spend watching traditional television, time-shifted television and online video is also down from 2011 to 2014.

Television Viewing in the United States among Adults 18-24

Those aged 18-24 watched around 5 hours and 20 minutes less a week, a fall of 25%. The 25-34 year-olds watched 3 hours 30 minutes less, a reduction of 12%.

The younger adults are watching 36% less traditional television while their online video viewing has increased by 57%, but from a much smaller base.

The popular narrative is that younger people are turning from television to online video. The reality may be more significant. They may be watching less television and video because they are doing other things instead, partly enabled by the internet and other devices.

Although young adults have historically watched less than older people, viewing television for seventeen and a half hours a week still represents a significant proportion of their time. Any notion that this age group simply watch online video rather than traditional television is clearly simplistic.

Data are drawn from The Cross Platform Report 2011 Q3 and The Total Audience Report 2014 Q3, both published by Nielsen.