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Good News, TV Guys: ComScore Found Your Missing TV Watchers

They're still watching TV -- just not on TVs. But about those cord-cutting numbers ...

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

If you’re a TV programmer, you’re very worried about the recent erosion in TV ratings, which have hit networks across the board this year. The best-case scenario: People are still watching your shows, but they’re watching them in ways that aren’t properly measured, like on the Web.

That’s what Nielsen says is happening, and now comScore has a bit of data to help shore up that argument: A new survey that says the younger TV watchers are, the less likely they are to watch TV shows on actual TVs.

That may not be shocking, but it is still interesting to see the results of comScore’s self-reported poll of online users, conducted in August. For instance, millennials say they spend a third of their TV-watching time watching TV on computers, tablets and phones:

Comscore TV watching

And you can see similar trends in response to a related question, about the different devices TV users have used recently. Nearly a third of millennials say they’ve watched a TV show on their phones in the last month:

These results are flattering to the TV guys, because it means their missing eyeballs aren’t lost, just misplaced. But even if the results are accurate, it’s hard to imagine that people who watch TV on Web-connected devices like phones and laptops aren’t also watching lots of other, non-TV video.

Meanwhile, not all of comScore’s data is that reassuring. The company says a whopping 24 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds say they’re not subscribing to pay TV. More than half of those folks — 13 percent of the total number polled — say they’ve cut the cord, while 11 percent say they’ve never had a cord, period.

If you’re a TV guy who wants to make yourself feel better about those numbers, tell yourself that it’s a self-reported online survey, so those results could be overstated. Then again, you have to tell yourself the same thing about the data that made you feel good, too.

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