Internet use cutting into television time

Associated Press

NEW YORK — A new survey suggests that the Internet is not cutting into the time people spend with their friends and families. Rather, it’s cutting into their time for television.

Internet users watched 4.5 hours less television a week than Americans who stay offline, according to the study released Thursday by the University of California at Los Angeles. Longtime Net users are more likely than newcomers to reduce their viewing habits.

"Without question, Internet users are ‘buying’ some of their time to go online from the time they used to spend watching television," said Jeff Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy.

Internet users socialized with friends slightly longer than nonusers did, and they spent nearly as much time socializing with family, the study found. Users and nonusers spent about the same amount of time on most household activities, like having meals and playing sports.

The exception was television. Nonusers spent 10 hours a week watching television with members of their household, compared with 9.4 hours for Internet newcomers and 6.7 hours for veterans.

For general TV-watching, nonusers spent 16.8 hours, while users spent 12.3 hours. Internet users also spent less time listening to the radio, talking on the telephone and reading books, newspapers and magazines.

Nearly 30 percent of the newcomers — those online for less than a year — said they have watched less TV. For veterans on the Net for at least five years, the figure increases to nearly 35 percent.

Nearly a quarter of children watched less television since turning to the Net.

The findings are consistent with research from the Pew Internet &American Life Project, which found a quarter of Internet users decreasing their TV watching. Only 3 percent of Internet users said they watched more television.

None of the surveys, however, suggest the demise of television anytime soon. Pew, for instance, found that Americans turned to television as their primary source of news immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks, while Internet usage dropped on Sept. 11 and 12.

Dennis Wharton, a spokesman with the National Association of Broadcasters, said that while the Internet potentially gives broadcasters competition, "over time there’s going to be a sort of marriage of the two."

"Media usage is not some sort of zero-sum game," he said. "The study seems to suggest you can’t do both at the same time."

Wharton added that overall television viewership — broadcast, cable and satellite combined — has grown over the past decade.

UCLA’s Cole said that when someone was using the Net and watching television at the same time, only the primary activity was counted.

The telephone survey of 2,006 U.S. households was conducted from May to July. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The study was funded partly by the National Science Foundation.

Among other findings:

  • Internet users were most satisfied with the ability to communicate with other people online. They were least satisfied with the speed of connection.

  • More than 72 percent of Americans have Internet access, up from 67 percent in 2000. Users spent 9.8 hours a week online, up from 9.4 hours. High-speed users spent three hours a week online more than dial-up users.

  • Privacy and credit card security remain chief concerns when shopping online, although the concerns about credit cards decreased among veterans.

  • Americans were more likely to be concerned about sexual content in movies and on television than over the Internet, although all three media provoked significant worries.

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