Facebook is bigger than TV networks, Nielsen Report Says


According to the first major study by Nielsen, the company that has been monitoring TV consumption for decades, Facebook attracts more 18- to 24-year-olds during prime-time viewing hours than any of four major television networks. Data collected shows that in the area of demographics and viewing, the largest social networking site is the favorite source of entertainment in that demographic (who would normally watch television during prime time hours in the past).

“Established as a bastion of direct response advertising and long considered the home for niche audiences, online has lagged behind other media, namely TV, as a channel for broadly messaged, brand advertising. The emergence of far-reaching publishers like Facebook, however, means that marketers now have another option for reaching consumers en masse. Likewise, the availability of true cross-screen metrics enables them to understand how digital can reinforce and complement their TV investment,” the report authors say.

The key finding is that Facebook can contribute significant incremental or duplicated reach to that of major TV networks. This was particularly true for younger demographics.

In particular, the study found that:

  • During the daytime, Facebook has a reach comparable to or exceeding the four TV networks measured. For consumers ages 25-34, for instance, Facebook added up to an incremental 41 percent reach to the TV networks during the day.
  • During prime-time, when TV networks reached more consumers than Facebook, Facebook was a strong driver of duplicated reach—meaning that a marketer could reach the same consumers online and on TV. For consumers ages 25-34 during primetime, for example, Facebook contributed up to 36 percent duplicated reach to the four measured TV networks.


population reach by platform

Other interesting findings include:

  • TV is more effective at reaching all audiences during primetime hours when compared to daytime
  • Facebook exhibits relatively consistent reach across both daytime and primetime dayparts
  • During the weekday daytime hours, Facebook achieves a higher reach than the TV networks for every age cohort containing person younger than 55, while during primtime hours, each of the four TV networks achieves a higher reach than Facebook in each age cohort except for persons 18-24
  • Mobile can also offer incremental reach for both online and TV, and is another way for fully integrated plans to achieve highest reach results

The Nielsen report concludes “as brand advertisers increasingly look to integrated campaigns that reach consumers wherever they’re engaging with media, understanding how to accomplish campaign objectives—such as reach—is essential. Likewise, the power of ad campaign measurement tools that span multiple media channels—and allow marketers to make real-world, holistic decisions about where to invest their budgets—is clear.”

Click here for the full report.