Collegiates Turn to Internet for Television, Rendering Traditional Sets Obsolete

TV executives behind shows like NBC’s “The Office,” and the ABC Family’s “Greek,” were ecstatic last January when Nielsen Media Corporation announced that it would begin mapping the television-viewing patterns of college students and factor college residence halls into its annual programming tally.

Television shows with younger viewer bases, they thought, would finally be able to recognize their full audiences and thus could conceivably begin to generate more revenue from advertisements.

But Nielsen’s decision to count its younger viewers may have come a little too late.

An increasing number of today’s college students are using laptops to watch their favorite shows, forgoing flat-screen TVs for computer monitors and switching from NBC to

Glenda Manzi, who teaches the ExCollege class “21st Century Television: Media in the Age of YouTube, Facebook, and MP3’s,” explained that television-viewing habits among young adults have undergone revolutionary changes in the past few years.

“When my daughter started college six years ago, every single dorm room had a television,” Manzi said. “Two years later, my son started college, and barely anybody had TVs in their room — there were maybe three people on his floor who had them. Now, I can’t even imagine what the case would be.”

Manzi also noticed this transition among the students in her class and has seen a difference in the two years since she began teaching it.

“I first taught [the class] in the spring semester of last year, and even in one year, the amount of video consumed by students on laptops has doubled,” Manzi said. “When I first taught the class, maybe half the class would say they watch [TV online]. Now, virtually everyone raises their hand.”

This recent, fast-growing trend has been attributed to a number of factors ranging from the Internet’s ease of accessibility to websites’ increase in viewer interactivity.

Most students, however, claim to turn to TV online because of its sheer convenience.

Tufts University sophomore Matthew Salzberg, a member of Manzi’s class, watches TV online because he finds it more suitable to his schedule.

“Online video formats are better for my lifestyle, where I don’t have time at 9 p.m. to sit and watch a TV [show], and because there are few, sometimes zero, commercials [online], the show becomes shorter and less annoying without two minutes of ads every six minutes,” Salzberg said.

But Salzberg said that while he prefers to watch television online, he hasn’t yet given up on his television set.

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