Facebook vs. Prime-Time TV: Who’s Winning?

Facebook’s reach is starting to rival that of major TV networks, according to a recent Nielsen study. At certain times of day, more of the social networking giant’s users, particularly the younger demographics, are logging onto their account than watching major TV networks.

Facebook use rivals network TVFor daytime hours, Facebook has a reach “comparable to or exceeding” the four major TV networks measured (Nielsen didn’t specify which TV networks it measured). Facebook attracted more than half of all viewers ages 18-44 during the day; none of the TV networks measured attracted higher than 40%.  However, this is not too surprising – most people don’t have a TV in front of them during the day.

During primetime TV viewing hours, TV networks still reach more consumers (overall) than Facebook.  But here’s the most interesting statistic from the report: Facebook attracts more 18- to 24-year-old people during prime-time viewing hours than any of four major television networks.  In that age group, 50% of television and computer users accessed Facebook between 8pm and 11pm on weeknights; the four TV networks attracted just 37% to 43% of those people.

Facebook's reach rivals network TVHowever, among older age groups Facebook didn’t fare as well. During prime-time hours, Facebook only drew 48% of people 35 to 44; the TV networks had an average reach of more than 65% in that age group, and an even higher percentage among older viewers.

The report also shows Facebook as “a strong driver of duplicated reach” – meaning that marketers can reach the same consumers both online and on TV. Many consumers access both Facebook and TV on a daily basis; among those 25-34, there was a 16% overlap between the two.  During primetime viewing hours, there was an average 34% overlap.

This was Nielsen’s first major study comparing Facebook’s user base with TV audiences. The report was commissioned by Facebook, as the social network prepares to launch a video advertising program this fall that will bring 15 second ads to the news feeds of users. These TV-style commercials on Facebook could potentially sell for as much as $2.5 million a day, reports Bloomberg.

“This data really changes the way marketers view us now,” Fred Leach, head of measurement research at Facebook, told Bloomberg. “They used to think of us as a niche part of their ad strategy, but this data establishes us as a really important piece of giving them reach.”

What do you think?  Will marketers start looking more seriously at Facebook and pulling dollars away from TV advertising?