Nielsen: iPod users far more likely to listen to music than watch video

“Owners of Apple’s ubiquitous portable media device spend far more time on it listening to music or audio podcasts than they do using it to watch TV or movies. That was among the findings in an unprecedented preliminary study conducted by the audience-measurement service in October — about one year after a video window was introduced to iPod and its corresponding Internet platform, iTunes,” Andrew Wallenstein reports for The Hollywood Reporter.

“The iPod research conducted by Nielsen, which is owned by VNU Group, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter, is the first publicly available independently published data on consumption habits for the device. Nielsen monitored a panel of 400 iPod users in the U.S. from Oct. 1-27 as part of its new initiative, Anywhere Anytime Media Measurement, or A2M2, which aims to measure audiences on myriad emerging digital platforms,” Wallenstein reports.

“Among the findings: Less than 1% of content items played by iPod users on either iTunes or the device itself were videos. Among video iPod users, that percentage barely improves, up to 2.2%,” Wallenstein reports. “Even measured by duration of consumption, where 30- or 60-minute TV shows might seem to have a built-in advantage over three-minute songs, video comprises just 2% of total time spent using iPods or iTunes among iPod owners. Video iPod users consume video 11% of the time. The study also found that 15.8% of iPod users have played a video on either iPod or iTunes. About one-third of that group doesn’t own a video iPod.”

Wallenstein reports, “Nielsen’s ‘Home Tech Report,’ a separate ongoing tracking of new technologies, projects about 13% of U.S. households own at least one iPod, amounting to about 15 million — 30% of which are video-enabled iPods. By Apple’s own count, nearly 70 million iPods have been sold to date.”

“Nielsen’s take on video consumption is highly subject to interpretation. Worst-case scenario: The panel is an early indication that TV and movies have limited appeal on iPods. Best-case scenario: While adoption of video may be proceeding more slowly than the hype suggests, there is tremendous upside ahead,” Wallenstein reports. “Apple, which declined comment, has been relatively tight-lipped about iPod usage with the exception of select statistics: The most current count pegs sales at 1.5 billion songs and 45 million videos (derived in part from 250 series from 40 networks). In its most recent earnings call, the Walt Disney Co. noted that about 500,000 movies have been sold in the two months since the company became the only major studio to strike a film-output deal (for 100 titles).”

Wallenstein reports, “To some degree, a higher volume of music is to be expected: Users could conceivably listen to a favorite song hundreds of times, while it is unlikely that a TV episode would be viewed more than a handful of times. In addition, many iPod music playlists incorporate MP3 files collected from outside sources long before the iPod came around, while videos aren’t as commonly collected and much less likely to come from outside the iTunes system.”

Full article here.

What’s next, a study that shows that TV and movies have limited appeal vs. music to drivers who have both audio and video players in their cars? Duh.

Music, which requires only one sense to be enjoyed, can be experienced while doing many things, for example: running, gardening, working, etc. Watching video usually takes two senses: sight and hearing. Therefore, consumption is naturally limited only to certain situations, for example: sitting on a commuter train, waiting for a plane, riding in the back seat of a car, etc. It’s beyond obvious that music listening will always be consumed in higher volume than video simply because music can be consumed in many more situations.

Anyone who thinks this study shows that iPod+iTunes has some problem with TV and movie adoption has our sympathies.

We’re listening to music right now while writing this sentence. We don’t watch TV shows and movies while we write, because we find that not much gets written when we do. It doesn’t mean we like music more than movies, it just means that we can only watch movies in certain situations that present themselves far less frequently than situations that allow for listening to music.

Wal-Mart and Target don’t have their panties in a bunch because TV and movies have “limited appeal” on iPod+iTunes, folks.

The real study you want to conduct to find out real information about music vs. video on iPods would be to put a person in an empty room with an iPod loaded with 20 of their favorite songs, the episode of their favorite TV show that they missed last night, and 10 movies they told you they haven’t seen, but wished they did. Then see what they choose. If you want to skew the results to your liking, tell the test subjects that they have to kill 10 minutes before the iPod is taken away to get the “music is more popular” result. To skew towards TV shows, tell them that they have to kill 30 minutes or an hour depending on the length of their favorite show. To get movies to come up strong, tell them they have to kill two hours.

Related articles:
Target backs off in dispute with Disney over Apple iTunes Store movie pricing – November 17, 2006
Disney sells nearly 500,000 movies via Apple’s iTunes Store in less than two months – November 09, 2006
Fox movies, including ‘Star Wars’ franchise, coming soon to Apple’s iTunes Store? – November 08, 2006
Analyst: two major studios seen joining Apple’s iTunes Store – October 10, 2006
Target complains to studios about iTunes Store movie download prices – October 09, 2006
Report: Apple and Wal-Mart in discussions over iTunes Store alliance – September 29, 2006
Wal-Mart: we’re not fighting iTunes Store movie downloads – September 23, 2006
Wal-Mart threatens retaliation against Hollywood studios if they sell movies via Apple’s iTunes – September 22, 2006
Disney’s remarkable 1st week iTunes movies sales should have studios clambering aboard Apple train – September 20, 2006
Disney sells 125,000 movie downloads via Apple’s iTunes Store in first week – September 19, 2006
Apple debuts iTunes 7 – September 12, 2006
Wal-Mart not happy with looming threat of Apple iTunes movie downloads – August 31, 2006


  1. I guess I’m not an average user… nor is one of my best friends. If I were to track for one day, I probably watch a good 6 to 7 hours of video on my iPod vs. maybe 1 – 1 1/2 hours of listening to music. As with my friend, we watch video at work most of the day and I only listen to audio in the car… sometimes. With my own video ripping, season passes, and the quickly growing collection of video podcasts I far more prefer video content over strictly audio for day to day stuff. When doing cardio at the gym I’d much rather watch video then listen to music as well.

    400 people seems like a very minuscule number of people to base the habits of hundreds of millions of users on.

  2. This is probably consistent with how I use my 5th gen. iPod. Maybe a little off. I don’t have cable so I download shows I want to watch (when I want to watch them), like Battle Star Galactica onto my iPod and my wife and I enjoy them on the TV in the living-room.

    Recently I also downloaded some of the Pink Panther videos for my son – he LOVES them. It is so great to see iTunes giving us some of the classic TV programs to enjoy like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the Pink Panther. I can’t wait for Northern Exposure, Gilligan’s Island and Hogan’s Heros! Oh, and the Andy Griffith Show.

  3. I agree that this is a predictable outcome. However, i do not think that it really says much about demand for video for download. That will continue to grow. I did not see a breakdown of the ratio of video viewed with iTunes (on monitor or TV) vs on iPod, but I suspect that is skewed to iTunes. I suspect that, as downloads increase, the iPod viewing will not increase much, but viewing via iTunes will increase.

    Along with MDN’s points, there is another factor. The quality of the video from iTS is noticeably compromised on normal TVs or monitors esp relative to DVDs and DVR captured video. This probably has more of an effect on movie downloads than TV/music videos, etc, but it is a factor that makes some hesitant to purchase video on iTS or view those videos on iTS. That said, if there were more old titles available, I would not hesitate to get them via iTS.

    I believe the quality will be improved and there will be more video from other sources played via iTunes increases (ie people use iTunes to organize their video as well as audio).

  4. This is pretty obvious if you think through the average person’s needs, people like to:

    listen to music on the go
    watch films from their arm chair
    watch little clips (á la YouTube) on their computer/iPod
    watch TV shows on a combination of their armchair/computer/iPod.

    Which fits into Apple’s products exactly.
    Music – iPod
    Films – iTV streamed from your Mac to your TV
    Little clips – iPod
    TV shows – combination of the above.

    Which is why we’re yet to see a full screen video iPod – people won’t want to watch video in this way – I doubt it will ever be released – it’s just a geekfantasy.

    Steve Jobs was right and it’s nice to see the research bearing this out.

  5. The iPod is great for watching videos when you are waiting, riding in a car/train/plane, etc. I watch video podcasts on my computer. I have some The Office episodes that I missed that I will watch to keep current. I watch these no through iTunes, nor Quicktime. I use FrontRow. I have some other TV shows and one movie. I do not watch these on my computer. However, when my iTV is hooked up to my projector, I will be watching them fron the comfort of my armchair. This is when TV and Movies from iTunes will take off. Geekbrief and tv episodes from the comfort on my armchair. I could cancel cable and save money.

    MDN word “nearly” as in: we a nearly to the point of no return.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.