Brian Stelter wrote a great article today in the New York Times entitled “Youths Are Watching, but Less Often on TV” that highlights a generational shift of younger viewers watching television programming on computers and phones to a greater degree than older viewers. This seems obvious, but the article can quantify it to a large degree thanks to new research by Nielsen.

Young people are still watching the same shows, but they are streaming them on computers and phones to a greater degree than their parents or grandparents do. It has long been predicted that these new media would challenge traditional television viewing, but this is the first significant evidence to emerge in research data.

The article also has a lot of interesting facts about television consumption. Americans now spend an average of more than 4 and a half hours watching TV every day, and while Americans aged 12 to 34 are spending less time in front of the television, viewers 35 and older are spending more time.

…for three straight quarters, there have been declines in viewing among Americans under 35, even when DVR viewership is factored in, according to Nielsen data analyzed by The New York Times. Adults ages 25 to 34, for instance, watched about four and a half fewer hours of television in the third quarter of 2011 than at the same time in 2010…

Probably the best point that article makes is that while Nielsen and a lot of the population views TV and TV streamed on the internet (not to mention all of the other forms of entertainment available online) as separate entities, younger Americans don’t make the distinction. There’s a cute anecdote about a 4-year-old not understanding what a TV channel is. The article provides a great background understanding for why it is going to be difficult for cable companies to keep their grip on consumers in the future.