Facebook Inc., the largest social- networking company, attracts more 18- to 24-year-old people during prime-time viewing hours than any of four major television networks, a study from Nielsen found.
Fifty percent of television and computer users in that age group will access Facebook between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on weeknights, according to Nielsen. The four networks included in the study, meanwhile, attracted 37 percent to 43 percent of those people. Nielsen declined to say which networks it used for comparison in the report, which was commissioned by Facebook.
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The report is Nielsen's first major study comparing Facebook's user base with TV audiences, giving advertisers a window into the demographics of both platforms. The information also provides Facebook with fresh ammunition as it fights to break television's dominance over ad budgets. The company is planning to sell TV-style commercials on its site for as much as $2.5 million a day, people familiar with the matter have said.
"This data really changes the way marketers view us now," Fred Leach, head of measurement research at Facebook, said in an interview. "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."
During daytime hours, Facebook commands an even bigger audience compared with the four networks, Nielsen found. The Menlo Park, California-based company attracted more than half of all viewers 18 to 44. None of the networks reached more than 40 percent.
"Most people during the workday don't have a TV in front of them," Leach said.
Facebook didn't fare as well among older age groups, especially during prime-time hours. It drew only 48 percent of people 35 to 44. The networks had an average reach of more than 65 percent in that age group and had an even higher percentage among older viewers.
The amount of time spent on the activity wasn't reported, and the study didn't examine other social networks such as Twitter Inc.'s microblogging service. Separately, Nielsen plans to release data later this year measuring how people use Twitter while watching TV.
Today's study found significant overlap between television viewing and checking Facebook.
"A lot of people talk about the TV shows they're watching while they're on Facebook," Leach said. That also provides opportunities for advertisers to get their message in front of a viewer multiple times, an ad tactic known as frequency targeting, he said.
"It's something a lot of marketers have asked for and now we're able to show them how with even better data," Leach said.