mobile video viewingThe average American owns four digital devices and is increasingly using them to keep himself or herself entertained, according to Nielsen. But physical media — including purchased and rented DVDs — still play a key role, the research firm says.

Nielsen points out that more than 7 in 10 Americans 12 and older (73 percent) are active viewers of movies and TV shows at home. And while viewers are watching about the same amount of movies and TV this year as in the recent past, the methods they use have changed.

More than half reported using digital methods such as a streaming video subscription to buy or rent one or more TV shows in the past six months. Yet only 12 percent of viewers said they have shifted entirely to digital viewing and purchasing methods.

Four in ten (41 percent) said they buy or rent TV and/or movies both physically and digitally. One in five still rely totally on buying or renting DVDs.

Streaming Vs. DVD
Digital content does take up the majority of viewing time, however. Viewers reported spending 25 percent less time during a typical week watching DVDs rather than watching digital content, with most digital viewing taking place via subscription services.

Viewers reported that 19 percent of the time they spent viewing during the week past was spent watching digital content. That included 10 percent using streaming subscription services, 4 percent on TV or movies they owned digitally, 4 percent on cable VOD content, and 1 percent on movies rented online for a one-time fee.

In comparison, consumers said they spent 11 percent of their entertainment time watching TV content or movies on DVDs they either rented (4 percent) or purchased (7 percent). Remaining viewing hours were spent on other activities, including watching live and time-shifted TV, playing video games or watching movies in theaters.

When it comes to share of spending, the results shift more toward physical content, Nielsen noted. Results showed viewers spent about twice as much buying and renting physical discs as they did on digital content during the past month. They spent 10 percent of consumer dollars on TV/movie disc purchases while 6 percent was spent on digital disc rentals over the same period. In comparison, respondents spent nine percent on digital content.

Demographic Differences
Nielsen called males under 35 “content kings” because of their “heavy” disc and digital content purchases and rentals. In contrast, most viewers carefully thought out both their digital and physical entertainment purchases. More thrifty viewers, such as those dubbed “old school homebodies” and “cordless creatives” took more account of price.

Viewers on the whole showed a growing preference for free and subscription streaming TV content as compared to going to the movie theater or watching movies in general. This year’s survey results showed an increase in viewing of free TV content across all viewing methods as compared to last year’s, including live TV, time-shifted TV via DVR, Internet VOD (a one-time rental) and cable VOD.