By Cheryl Pearson-McNeil

NNPA Columnist

I love this time of the year.  Oh, yes – the holidays, too – but, I am referring to the release of the newest Nielsen Cross-Platform Report. The latest edition is called A New Connected Community, analyzing the constant shifting in how and where consumers watch our content. I love the idea that through the marvels and growth of technology, “the community” of consumers is all of us, one people – multiple generations, all ethnicities and races, breaking down socio-economic boundaries.  We are connected.  To each other and to our content.  And, boy do we consumers love our visual and informational content. Big time.  24/7.  Let’s break it down.

Keeping it Old-School

According to the report, Americans spent more than 34 hours a week in front of a TV set in the second quarter of 2012.  Being sophisticated consumers (and regular readers of this column, right?), we know that being in front of a TV can mean watching traditional TV, timeshifted TV, DVDs or game playing.  And, as we all know and have discussed here, TV isn’t what it used to be when many of us were growing up.  Instead of three or four channels and rabbit-ears, there are hundreds of channels from which to choose and several sources of content distribution that require no antennae: broadcast, cable, satellite, telco or internet connection.

For African-Americans, those numbers skew higher. We know from the African-American Consumers: Still Vital, Still Growing 2012 Report, that on average we spend nearly six and a half hours a day of television viewing in all of its forms.  In studying the entire U.S. population, the cross-platform report gives an even closer and later analysis of weekly TV watching in hours and minutes among African-Americans over age two:

  • Traditional TV                                                  44:25 (hours:minutes)
  • Watching Timeshifted TV                                 1:56
  • Using a DVD/Blu-ray Device                           1:26
  • Using a Game Console                                      1:41
  • Using the Internet on a computer                       4:16
  • Watching Video on the Internet                           :52
  • Mobile Subscribers Watching Video                  :15                on a Mobile Phone

The New and Not-So-New Kids on the Block

Then there are those near-ubiquitous extensions of us – our smartphones and tablets.  Smartphones now claim more than 50 percent of the market.  Penetration of these devices is, however, highest among ethnic groups.  Sixty-two percent of African-Americans, 60 percent of Hispanics and 70 percent of Asian-Americans in the U.S. own smartphones.  The conclusion is that smartphones provide an opportunity for American consumers who might not have regular access to a computer to get on the Internet.  As for tablets – they seem to be everywhere with new models offered by any number of providers at a dizzying rate.  Just two years ago, tablets were a novelty.  In that short period, this device has found its way into nearly 20 percent of American homes.  Tablet ownership among African-Americans, however, remains low at about 11 percent.  You know what the really cool thing is about tablet ownership?  The data shows that young folks don’t corner the market on trying the newest or the latest in this instance.  Tablet owners tend to be older and more affluent.

Multitasking Masters

All of us are becoming more adept at doing it all, engaging our smartphones or tablets while watching TV. The latest cross-platform report calls it “Simultaneous Usage” and some of it looks like this:

  • Eighty-five percent of tablet and smartphone owners use their devices at least once a month while watching TV.
  • Those age 25-34 and 55-64 are most likely to use their tablets several times a day while watching TV.
  • Smartphone multitaskers are a bit younger. Nearly half of 18-24 year olds use their smartphones while watching TV at least once a day.
  • Forty-one percent of tablet owners use their device at least once a day while watching TV. Thirty-nine percent of smartphone owners do this daily.
  • 55-64 year olds are the heaviest tablet Web surfers and email checkers during commercial breaks and programs.
  • Nearly 1/3 of all tablet users age 25-64 check sports scores on their tablets while watching TV.
  • Emailing is the heaviest simultaneous smartphone activity across the board, with 50 percent of users checking email during TV shows and commercials.

Do you know what this means for all of us as consumers?  It means advertisers, marketers and media companies have new ways and ever-growing opportunities to woo us and reach out to us with their messages.  So even more . . . you matter.

Cheryl Pearson-McNeil is senior vice president of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Nielsen. For more information and studies go to