Snap Inc., which held its , would like you to believe young people are turning away from TV, and fast.
In its filing for an initial public offering, Snap asserts that 18 to 24 year-olds are watching 35% less television that they did six years ago. The underlying message is clear: if advertisers want to reach young people they should put their money into social media platforms, like Snapchat, not old-school television networks like CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox though Snap doesn't name names.
But TV's demise is overblown, counters Brian Wieser, media analyst at the Pivotal Research Group. Snap, ironically, fails to include all sorts of digital ways that TV is indeed being watched by young people.
The 35% figure cited by Snap refers to a 7% decline in the compounded annual growth rate of television viewing over a six-year period as tabulated by Nielsen Holdings (NLSN) - Get Nielsen Holdings Plc (NLSN) Report . Yet that tabulation excludes television viewing through video-on-demand platforms such as Netflix (NFLX) - Get Netflix, Inc. (NFLX) Report and Hulu as well as pay-TV services that run through devices likes an Apple (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. (AAPL) Report TV or Roku as well as any of the recent wave of standalone offerings such as Dish Network's (DISH) - Get DISH Network Corporation Class A Report SlingTV.
That's a big omission, Wieser argues.
In reality, says the Pivotal research analyst, television "viewing has likely risen slightly across all age groups over the past six years." Wieser also discovered that as 18-year-olds age into 24-year-olds, they tend to watch more traditional television, i.e. the large screen in the living room, rather than the small. mobile screen in their hands.
Even when short-form content that runs on Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Alphabet Inc. Class A Report YouTube are excluded, "consumption levels are probably closer to flat across most populations." That's a lot different than a 35% decline.
To be sure, digital advertising is the fastest growing segment in advertising, and mobile is the fastest growing portion of digital. Snap, which is only accessible on mobile devices, is all about winning a greater share of mobile advertising, a business overwhelmingly dominated by Facebook (FB) - Get Facebook, Inc. Class A Report and Google.
Global digital ad spending is expected to increase to $767 billion by 2020 from $652 billion in 2016, an alluring fact that Snap cited on page three of its 185-page prospectus, made public last week.
But for all the talk of cord-shaving and cord-nevers, television still grabs more advertising dollars than digital despite a 1% to 2% decline in total U.S. pay-TV subscribers over the past five years. Television advertising spending totaled $64.3 billion in 2016, narrowly edging digital ad-spending at $63.9 billion, according to initial estimates compiled by the Standard Media Index, which tracks the spending of 70% of all U.S. advertising agencies.
There are even signs that digital ad-spending is starting to slow, though that may be a product of the law of large numbers rather than a general weakness in the medium. Nonetheless, while ad spending on TV increased 4.4% last year, marketers' spending on digital slowed to 13.3%, half as fast as it rose in 2015, the SMI said.
Yes, television ad-spending was bolstered in 2016 by political advertising but political will always be a factor and at present, most campaigns put more of their money into television than digital.
Despite Snap's proclamations, TV is hardly dead.
Snap CEO Evan Spiegel was in New York on Tuesday as part of his company's investor road show. The CEO was reportedly asked with numerous questions about the company's ability to generate more revenue per user, a nagging question in light of Twitter's ongoing struggles.
Spiegel has built Snapchat into $405 million advertising business in a little over two years. And the company is expecting that investors will reward it with a valuation over $20 billion.
They certainly might get there but not because young people are watching less TV.
Snap didn't immediately return a request for comment.