back to article TV numbers sink as iOS usage rises

Prime-time television is shedding audience at an increasing clip, with the most recent decline due not to crap shows such as High Society or The Marriage Ref, but to Apple. "A new entertainment force is once again driving disruption: the iPhone," blogs Peter Farago, marketing veep at Flurry, the app-tracker self-described as " …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    But where are they playing these games?

    From what I see around me at work, these iPhone users are playing these games instead of doing work, where they wouldn't be watching TV anyway. Statistics can be twisted anyway you need them I guess.

    Evil Steve because of the blind and loyal zoombie cult he has formed.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    omg it's a real game!

    I'd been assuming that I was suddenly seeing a whole lot more references to Idiocracy :-(

  3. Eddy Ito

    hippo crate or henhouse fox

    "between NBC's Sunday Night Football and ABC's Dancing with the Stars... the number one prime-time show on television, FOX's American Idol."

    More compelling evidence that Jobs is correct about the "turn your brain off" aspect of TV does not exist but it does make one wonder why the man tries so hard to get his "hobby" of Apple TV to take flight. Sure, it's easier selling crap to folks when their brains are off... oh wait.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sad day for humanity

      It is a sad day when "the quality of TV" is automatically assumed to be driving people to an iWhatever and not to books, normal human interaction with other humans or even computer-mediated interaction with other humans.


      As far as Steve Jobs - well, he amidst all knows very well that out of the "lots of money" we pay for media nearly everything goes to the labels. To make things more interesting the labels continuously try to ostracise any non-label player and do their "own media distribution".

      So if he wants to have a long term viability he has to have a platform that can do media (so that the users by it in the first place) and LOTS OF OTHER STUFF. The amount of resources required to drive a HD STB along with the interactive content, menu system, etc is comparable to the resources needed to run let's say Quake or the older Dooms. A system that can do HD TV can do most day-to-day apps without breaking a sweat. It can also do some very serious gaming if it is assisted by a "cloud" side in a fashion similar to OnLive.

      From there on it generates more revenue and profit than a one trick pony that does only HDTV. As a result any attempts by the labels to roll their own fail and Steve keeps his dominance over the part of consumers that matters - the one that is happy to pay his margins so he does not go into a "race for the bottom" with HP, Acer and the like.

  4. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    TV viewing is not declining because of some Apple product. It's declining because there's lots of crap on, and lots of better things to do than watch TV constantly. I watch a fair bit of TV, but have mythtv scouring the channels 24/7 just to find enough good stuff to watch, I wouldn't watch TV at all if I had to watch shows "live".

  5. Anonymous Coward

    For realz...






    1. Anonymous Bastard
      Thumb Up

      Spelt with two D's

      For a Double Dose of his "pimpin'"

  6. Tom 35


    TV numbers sink because of the ads.

    For the few shows that don't suck I still find them un-watchable.

    You get...

    ad, ad, intro, ad,ad,ad, part1, ad,ad, part2, ad, ad, part3, ad,ad,ad,ad, end,ad,credits (squished over with more ads.

    Then, oh dear our revenue is dropping, we will have to put in more ads...

    And in the slots where you used to get movies, old classics, or kids cartoons, now you get a 30 min ad for total shit (but wait if you call now you get extra shit, just pay shipping and handling...)

    It Peter gets his way we will not want to use aps, because they will be full of ads too.

    1. NogginTheNog

      Ad breaks ruin shows

      What I detest in hour long programmes is the incessant recapping of information, and the 'coming up later on' trailers within the show itself, which waste maybe 10-15 minutes of what could have been useful content time. Increasingly even BBC shows do it, presumably so that when they're re-broadcast on ad carrying networks they have the breaks all ready and primed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: TV numbers sink because of the ads.

      But entirely accurate. The simple minded logic of loading on more ads is killing commercial TV stone dead. No wonder Rupe and his mates want rid of the BBC or anything else that gives a choice not to watch ads.

      Watching US commercial imports on the Beeb is instructive as to where the so-called 'growth' comes from.

      In the early 70's the original Star Trek (and most other imports) ran to 50 minutes of programming with titles. By the early 90's Star Trek TNG and spin offs were 44-45 minutes. The last Star Trek series of Enterprise (2005) comes out at 40 minutes with ads removed. When C4 were showing Lost, I think that panned out at 34 minutes. Strip out the utterly pointlessly long titles on most shows (great value on the X-Files at 30 seconds) and it leaves you with not much over half of every hour that is actually content, with the rest irrelevant dross of one form or another. That's a lot of your life your supposed to be wasting as a pay off for less and less programme.

      C4 had to resort to padding Lost out with an extra large helping of programme trailers, because in the UK the length of these isn't regulated, but the amount and frequency of commercial ads is. There evidently wasn't enough programme to fill the space left.

      The net effect for me (and probably 90 percent of the rest of the population) is that I simply don't watch 'live' TV at all unless its on a non-commercial channel, instead using a PVR to skip the ads entirely, whereas 15 years ago would have fallen below the pain threshold and might well have been seen.

      If web ads in general were no worse that Google's text ads, I'd probably have put put up with those. But the insistence on flashing, jumping, shouty, bandwidth-wasting technicolour nightmares on web pages means that AdBlock Plus is the top of my add-ons list and is downloaded nearly 900,000 times a week; 300,000 more times than its nearest rival in the popularity stakes. How long before the ConDems just make ABP illegal as no doubt their lynx-scented marketing chums would like? If smartphone apps are going to go the same way , it'll be no smartphone for me till someone does ABP for iPhone.

      There was a time long ago when ads actually brought something to the culture beyond paying for quality programming. If advertisers don't twig there is a balance needed between ads and content, both will end up getting ignored entirely.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Lynx-scented marketing chums?

        I thought these evil marketing types were supposed to be social climbers? Last I checked lynx was pretty lowest common denominator. I mean I use it, but I've never expected to impress anyone.

      2. Ivan Headache

        flashing, jumping, shouty, bandwidth-wasting technicolour nightmares

        And soon they'll all be in 3D.

  7. Gareth
    Thumb Down

    Bad science

    So the combined audience of social gaming is comparable to the audience for a single prime time TV show?

    What's the audience of the largest single social games in comparison? The "apple-to-every single orange in the store combined" comparison doesn't seem that useful outside of a press release.

    1. Guido Esperanto


      they are just consultants doing what consultants do best.

      They tell you a problem that you already know (you're losing audience), then they vaguely tell you where the source of the problem (mobile devices).

      If you give us your monies, we'll narrow that vagueness down to a few hundred options

      If you give us more monies we'll narrow it down further.

      If you partner us, we'll guide you through a transition, (with obvious golden handshakes for us if we actually fail to improve your business) and tell you where is best to steer your business.


      as an alternative, I'll save you all that money with a simple phrase.

      "Make programmes that people, (yes thats the unwashed masses, the working fraternity and everyone else,) will find stimulating (easy now) and they will find interesting"

      spouting out reality-tv-clone 4 and milking-a-franchise-8 will not hold everyones interests.

    2. The Other Steve

      Meh, you got there first

      Apples to oranges indeed.

      Well, precisely. Blokey says that iOS junkies : "Treated as a consumer audience ..."

      But you can't treat them as a single consumer audience in the same way that you can a broadcast audience, because they simply aren't all doing the same things at the same time. They're fragmented across a number of media, they aren't one single set of eyeballs that you can chuck stuff at.

      Plus of course he's excluded every single other entertainment platform on the planet, from shagging, through badger baiting to reading a book.

      OTOH his "OMG! Apple IS KILLING OUR TV!" is clearly garnering attention, since we're here reading about it.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Make hay...

    ...while the sun shines, Mr. Apple Ratings Guy.

    This is a bit like reading entrails/bones/runes, innit?

  9. Stu 18

    of course users could be playing games while watching tv

    as per ttitle

  10. Handel was a crank

    People do other things

    Wow, you mean people do things other than watching television? That's amazing news.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    playing games is what...

    keeps you sane during adverts!!

  12. Jacqui

    @of course users could be playing games while watching tv

    They are called women - men only mono task. TV and a game would make thier head explode1

    1. NogginTheNog
      Thumb Down


      Nowadays I probably do 50% of my TV watching with my lappy on my knees. That way I 'graze' the interesting bits of the programmes, and skip over the guff used to pad them out to 30 or 60 minutes.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    What complete and utter...

    ...load of fapping bullocks! Those "statistics" are the biggest load of meaningless crap ever!

    For the sake of argument lets say each one of those programs is one hour long and the sample represents one weeks viewing figures, 186 million people (roughly all the viewing totals, obviously excluding iOS) watch 60* minutes of TV per week versus 133 million people (19m users * 7 days) using iOS for 22 minutes a week....

    TV: 11.2 billion (total minutes per week)

    iOS: 2.9 billion (total minutes per week)

    That is still a MASSIVE difference in anybodies books.

    Its also interesting that there is no indication of overlap... If my friends are anything to go by a huge amount of "social" app usage is prompted BY primetime TV... "so and so is singing crap this week", "Simon Cowell is an arse!", "That was soooooooooooo a goal" and so on... At all other times these people fall largely silent. Remove primetime TV and the amount of "social" app usage WOULD go down!

    Then there is the fact that (usually) there is only 1 opportunity a day to watch any given TV program (yes, I know programs can often be repeated on a sister channel in the same day, but the figures account for that) so that means there is only a "window" of 60 minutes to watch a program (the time it is scheduled for broadcast), whereas the window to use iOS is 24 hours...

    Now lets just use the most popular show, American Idol, with 23 million viewers. So thats 23 million viewers watching 60 minutes of progamming during a 60 minute window as opposed to iOS' 19 million users using it for 22 minutes during a 24 hour window.

    Like I said, those statistics are useless and prove NOTHING.

    *Yes, I know, TV programs are very rarely 60 minutes long, particulary in the US where an "hour" slot only actually has something like 40 minutes of actual programming!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Apples and Pears

    Surely this is a bit of a stretch to attribute falling TV viewing to increased use of social apps? And how did they tie this specifically to ios - surely android, RIM and (who-d-a-thunk-it) PCs are in the frame here too?

    I mean, if I traded 20 mins on activity xxx to do social media, activity xxx could be bloody anything. Well...maybe one thing in particular, eh Paris?

  15. AndrueC Silver badge


    Most prime-time stuff sucks but adverts aren't a problem if you have a PVR. I still watch a lot of TV but I watch it when I want I skip over the ad-breaks.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Perhaps the real story here

    ...isn't magical iJesus devices vs. prime time TV as much as it is "content" (whatever that happens to be, including the population's ever-increasing FaceBook and Twitter addiction) on-the-go and when-I-want it vs. at home, in front of the TV, when they deem it time to bless me with their one-time broadcast.

    Maybe it's just my house, but I find it exceedingly rare these days that we're plopped down in front of the TV at the time of airing short the wife's Sunday night Desperate Housewives and the toddler's morning kid-show routine. Everything else on the tube is DVR'd, on demand, or it's just running for whatever's on (I will admit a pretty horrible habit of turning it on while I do other things for no good reason). I also find that we're watching less TV in general these days.

    I'd tend to agree with the comments here that trying to correlate drops in TV viewing with iJesus use makes for a pretty lame attribution (repeat after me: "correlation is not causation"). I think there's definitely something going on because I see it in my house too, and the Tom 35 effect (way too many crap ads) is part of my personal equation at least. Watching non-DVR'd TV reminds me of the "Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light" (Dilbert) punishments... not quite Hell, but definitely Heck-ish

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Viewing habits have changed...

    Everyone is time shifting recordings, and/or torrenting shows especially if adverts can be skipped or have been removed in the case of torrents!

    You barely get 2 mins of the show before the first adverts with US tv!

    I'm sure the trend is for time shifted or on demand/streaming tv. The viewer wants to be in control. The concept of prime time is diminishing.

  18. EvilGav 1


    Declining viewing figures have more to do with the insipid bilge that the studios keep pumping out than any one other device.

    It should also be noted that viewing figures have been steadily declining for years - the most watched TV show/episode of all time is still the final episode of M.A.S.H. in 1983 (this was, apparently, surpassed by the 2010 Superbowl).

    As has been pointed out elsewhere, the number of adverts on TV has become a joke - nearly one-third of the time is spent with adverts (the average hour long episode, once seen on DVD/Blu-ray, only runs for 43 minutes).

  19. Daniel Wilkie

    Or indeed

    Playing games instead of playing games on something else...

    It was one thing I really noticed when I got sky - compared to good old fashioned TV they crammed in a LOT of adverts for any given program.

  20. JaitcH

    TV doesn't need help shedding audiences

    Personally, comparing the numbers of TV viewers vis-a-vis iPhans they haven't sold enough fruit ware to have such a great affect.

    I occasionally grab satellite TV programs, often Discovery and Nat Geo, but even these interesting channels are useless as they are running rotating schedules that repeat every 4-5 hours and more often than not the programs are re-runs or old programming (I'm thinking of how many ways to crash an aircraft) that has been re-edited or several programs spliced together which is old footage not, as they call it, a 'new' series or a 'premier'.

    The reality programs are staged, I watched as a group of clowns 'did' VietNam and the staged, and re-staged, so many portions of the program, that it was more of a play. One contestant had backpacked the country and knew the quick ways to get to 'Hoooey', as one American called Hue, but she wasn't allowed to take them because a film crew had to film her.

    CNBC is running re-runs of financial advice programs and so it goes.

    No, IMO, TV needs no assistance in dumping audience which is most likely the reason why all the latest screens have multiple inputs so purchasers find alternate uses for them.

  21. 0laf

    Last night

    I watched Horizon on BBC2 - What Happened Before the Big Bang?

    A nice little foray into theoretical physics.

    There are still some good telly programs out there. It's just that they are preciously few and far between.

    1. joshimitsu
      Thumb Down

      @ 0laf

      I tried watching that - it was so dumbed down it gave me a headache and I ended up watching Familiy Guy instead.

  22. Sirius Lee

    What a load of bollox

    You have to admire Apple marketing. Trying to attribute falling TV to their products. But what bull. Can you imagine the cost of everyone watching the equivalent TV on their phones? Of the bandwidth? The telco's squak about the effect on bandwidth of regular use let alone huge amounts of TV over 3G.

    My kids rarely watch TV in the conventional way but they do watch on YouTube - on their laptops.

    1. The Other Steve

      Well, no

      "You have to admire Apple marketing. Trying to attribute falling TV to their products."

      No, you don't, because this has fuck all to do with them.

  23. Jason Bloomberg

    As everyone has said ...

    TV is killing itself along with changes in how audience choose to watch programmes. That those people do other things instead of watching TV is to confuse cause and effect. Can't wait for the headline, "TV audience declines as more people choose to stare at walls twiddling thumbs".

    I recall happy days when Film4 had no ad breaks, now premières seem to be a long opening segment to get you hooked, ad breaks getting increasingly longer to the end. Once you have a PVR it's hard to believe you survived without.

    I tend to live-shift TV now, start recording at say 18:00 and start watching at 21:00. Two hours later and I've watched 'five hours' of TV, three hours to do something else I choose to.

  24. PerfectBlue

    Get real

    Oh, come on.

    My Prime time network viewing has dropped to almost 0, and I don't even own an Apple device. The same is true for most of my family and friends. While those who own Apples devices aren't even using them during prime time.

    The reason for the drop is a combination of factors

    1) The shows are garbage. Pure and Simple

    2) We now have hundreds of channels to choose from, and time shifting PVRS. So even when we do watch TV during prime time we're not necesarily watching a prime time show, and when we do watch prime time shows they may be from several days ago. I can't be the only person to record several episodes and then watch them all back to back on a wet weekend afternoon.

    3) Ditto for video on demand, Tivo, Netflix and Youtube.

    4) Can you say Nintendo WII, or PS3?

    The truth is that our lives are now so full of alternatives to prime time TV, which is pretty poor these days, that we've all got better things to do. Including better things to do than to tap a tiny little screen on an iPhone.

    Sure, some people will be playing games on their iTouch or iPad during prime time, but I doubt that this is having much of an impact on TV viewing during this time period.

  25. morphoyle

    more twisted stats

    Correlation does not imply causation.

  26. The Unexpected Bill


    To say that TV is suffering because of iDevices from Apple is fallacious at best.

    The TV industry is suffering because there is simply so much crap on the air these days. People are starting to realize that they have lives that can be spent doing other things.

    I wouldn't have to watch TV anyway. Every last one of my co-workers can, with incredible accuracy, relay the plot lines from all the currently popular shows. I don't watch, yet neither do I miss a thing. Every time they do so, I sit there and think "wow...don't you people have anything better to do? While you are watching TV, I'm tinkering, reading, writing, repairing stuff or learning about something."

    On a side note, I've tried a number of TV on PC or DVR solutions out there, from BeyondTV to WinTV. Every last one sucked in some entertaining way. Then I got smart and realized I was fighting to do something I didn't really care about anyway. And my co-workers are doing a more reliable job, including skipping the commercials! (I never did try any set-top boxes or Tivo, though.)

    When analog television was still available on the stateside end of the "puddle", I watched TV very occasionally...maybe one or two times a month, or in the afternoon when I really didn't have anything to do. Post digital-conversion-fiasco, I don't even have a truly functional TV any more. My antenna wasn't up to it. I'm afraid of heights and just didn't feel like paying someone to mount a new antenna. I haven't actually gotten around to taking my TV down. It has a basic rabbit ear antenna which will receive a very few things, in the rare case I'd want to watch something like a newscast or weather report. And so, in 2010, I haven't even turned a television set on and watched anything.

    Let me get back to the subject at hand here. What's on TV today is mostly garbage. I've read Newton Minow's speech and even fifty years later much of what he says rings true about the state of television and radio. He says that the companies entrusted to use of the public airwaves are duty-bound to provide a voice that inescapably rings with intelligence and leadership. I believe that his speech also states that he believes it to be his job as chairman of the FCC to see that this goal is accomplished. It seems like nobody to have held the position since his time feels that way.

    Really...when is the last time that the majority what was on the television and radio made you feel as though the trustees of the public airwaves had communicated something with a voice of intelligence and leadership? I can't remember too many times that I felt that way...the amount of stupid, repetitive, "canned" programming out there today is simply stunning. How many times do you really need to see (random examples) Big Brother or Survivor? Is it really that different every time? Only the public broadcasting services seem to behave any differently.

    It seems to me that the way things are run today, only those with deep pockets can play. I'd like very much to get into radio or TV broadcasting to buck the trend of stupid, meaningless programming...but I doubt very much that I can afford to do that with the way things are now. Even if I could get a license, I doubt that I could afford to stay around. Quality doesn't often sell easily, most people don't care.

    I've known a few radio and television stations (mostly small, independently owned ones) that tried to buck the trend. Nearly all have folded and closed their doors. Some were bought out and lost all of that character. One such radio station still exists in my part of the world, and has enough of an audience built up that they're actually doing fairly well.

  27. KenBW2

    Not only iOS

    People's ages are increasing too!

    See, I can make bullshit trends too

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