The number of Australians active online is rising and the use of broadcaster video on demand services is up by nearly 37% in a year, but from a relatively low base to about 20 minutes a day. Traditional television viewing is down 15% over two years to an average of 2 hours 11 minutes a day. Will the growth of online delivery be sufficient to replace this reduction in viewing?

Nielsen looks at the monthly online activity of Australians. At the end of 2019 there were over 21 million Australians active online, which was 93% of those aged over 18, but only 73% of those aged over 65. That is a significant increase on a year previously, when the reach was 84% and 59% respectively.

The largest segment of active online users is those aged 25-34, accounting for 15% of those online, although it is those aged 35-44 that spend the longest time online.

The majority of online usage, as measured by Nielsen, is on smartphones, accounting for 73% of online usage, up from 65% the previous year.

Nielsen can currently only estimate video usage on computers. Given that smartphones and tablets account for 88% of time spent online, according to Nielsen, that is a fundamental limitation.

ThinkTV, the industry body owned by Seven, Nine, Network 10, and Foxtel Media, publishes its own research, based on numbers provided by OzTAM and Regional TAM panel measurements.

In 2019, Thinkbox estimates Australians consumed an average of 56.13 billion hours of broadcaster video on demand. That sounds like a huge number. There are about 25 million people in Australia, so it works out at about 20 minutes a day, up from about 14 minutes a day a year before. That is spread across the services of Seven, Nine, Network 10, ABC, SBS and Foxtel. It is significant but low in comparison to television viewing overall.

Australians watched an average of 2 hours 11 minutes of broadcast television a day in 2019. That is a lot lower than in many other countries, but still a lot more than they watched broadcast programming online.

In the main metro markets, average television viewing was down to 2 hours, while in the regions it was 2 hours 29 minutes. However, among those aged 25-54 it was only 1 hour 42 minutes and 2 hours 6 minutes respectively. Among those aged 16-39 it was down to 54 minutes and 1 hour 8 minutes a day.

The vast majority of broadcast television was watched at the time of broadcast. Less than 12% was watched within 7 or 28 days. That may be because broadcasters in Australia have hardly encouraged the adoption and usage of digital video recorders.

By contrast, only 30% of broadcaster video on demand was viewed at the time of transmission, although that percentage is relatively high. Live viewing generally constitutes less than 20% of requests on the BBC iPlayer, for example.

Just under half of all broadcaster video on demand viewing in 2019 was on connected televisions. Mobile phones received the least viewing, at 14%, behind tablets at 18%, which were fractionally more viewed than laptop or desktop computers.

One might think that mobile viewing was higher for programmes at the time of transmission. It was actually lower, at under 12% of broadcaster video on demand viewing, compared to 15% for viewing on demand.

It should be no real surprise that people tend to view television programmes on televisions, but it goes against the popular view that people are watching on phones. The data show that mobile viewing was less than three minutes a day when averaged across the population.

Broadcaster video on demand viewing skews toward female viewers. The largest group is women aged 25-39, at 16.0%, compared to 10.2% for men of that age range. The next largest group is women aged 40-54, at 15.8%, compared to 11.8% for men of that age. Children aged 13-17 made up only 3.2%, while women aged 18-24 accounted for 5.1%, and men of that age only 3.2%.

Online viewing of broadcaster services rose by 36.9% year on year but increased by only 1.3% between the first half and second half of 2019. That does not seem to suggest rapid growth in online viewing.

That may be a concern, given that traditional television viewing is falling. In the first half of 2018, average daily viewing was 2 hours 28 minutes and in 2017 it was 2 hours 35 minutes. That indicates an average reduction of 24 minutes in two years, which is almost a half hour programme a day less, and a lot less adverts.

The question is whether viewing of broadcaster online services will sufficiently substitute the continuing loss of traditional television viewing.

The Nielsen Digital Panel, formerly Digital Ratings Monthly, aims to provide cross-device measurement, based on home and work, smartphone and tablet panels. Thinkbox publishes a fact pack twice a year, based on a combination of panel and census data, which is available from its web site.