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Americans watching more TV, thanks to mobile devices, Internet

TV viewing has increased across all platforms with viewing over Internet up by 34.5 percent from last year viewing mobile

TV viewing has increased across all platforms, with viewing over the Internet up by 34.5 percent from last year, viewing on mobile devices up 20 percent, and TV set viewing up 0.2 percent.

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Updated: October 16, 2011 12:17AM

Americans are watching more TV, with viewership growing the fastest on mobile devices and the Internet, the Nielsen Co. says.

Americans watch on average 22 minutes more television per month over the past year, according to the Nielsen study released Wednesday. Television viewing has increased across all platforms, with viewing over the Internet up by 34.5 percent from last year, viewing on mobile devices up 20 percent from last year, and TV set viewing up 0.2 percent from last year.

The average American watched more than 158 hours a month of television in the home on a TV set in the first quarter of 2011. In a distant second place is television viewing over the Internet, with the average consumer watching 4.5 hours a month. In a close third is television viewing on mobile devices, with viewing at about 4 hours 20 minutes a month on a tablet or smartphone device.

Pat McDonough, senior vice president of insights and analysis for Nielsen, said that there are two factors contributing to the increase in general media consumption: Increased amount and diversity of content, and the ability to watch that content at the viewer’s convenience. “So when I can watch when I want to, and there’s more content available, this is leading to people watching television more,” McDonough said.

Mobile devices have exploded in popularity as a tool for television viewing both in the home and on the go. Over the past year, television viewers using mobile devices such as the iPad has increased by 41 percent. This recent spike in popularity has not been lost on cable companies, who are devising ways to make mobile TV viewing faster and easier.

“Tablets are driving the trend,” said Motorola sales representative Jane Mikulski. “People aren’t that excited that they can watch TV on their smartphone.”

Peter V. Dobrow, a Comcast spokesman, said families are big consumers of mobile devices for TV viewing. “Families use them, if the adults want to watch one thing, then the kids can watch another on the iPad and the whole family can still be in the same room,” Dobrow said. “We’re pulling together different apps and trying to make it easier to use and more consumer friendly.”

Dobrow added that tablet devices, with their touch screen controls, were intuitive enough that children could use them easily. Comcast’s xfinity TV app, with which you can customize what kinds of shows you want to watch and when, has been downloaded 2.2 million times since its release, according to Comcast Interactive Media vice president Matt Strauss.

“It’s this culture of instant gratification, where customers expect to be able to customize their experience,” Strauss said. “TV is becoming video, where you can watch it whenever. If my son wants to watch ‘Scooby-Doo,’ and I tell him ‘You can watch it when it comes on at 4 p.m.,’ he doesn’t understand that. It’s not what he’s used to.”

Some of the latest innovations demonstrated at the Cable Show expo in Chicago are controlling a television and DVR with a mobile device, as well as linking with a consumer’s social media and providing a “What’s Hot” list based on what their friends are watching.

“There’s much more personalization,” said Ken Morse, chief technology officer at Cisco in San Jose, Calif. “Television now has a more on-demand nature. Hopefully it makes for a better viewing experience that it is so tailored to your tastes and your life. The only thing it doesn’t do is watch it for you.”

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