time watching television continues to grow

Average television watching time per U.S. adult grew from 16 hours per week in 1995 to 20 hours per week in 2009. From 2003 to 2009, television watching time increased 9%.[1] Television watching time accounts for about half of total personal discretionary time and far exceed time spent on the web.[2]  Not surprisingly, new media firms are eager to combine television and the web.

While traditional television watching continues to dominate time using media, other changes suggest ongoing communications industry changes.  Time spent socializing and communicating in person and time spent reading (as conventionally understood) fell 12% and 7% on average among U.S. adults from 2003 to 2009. Time spent playing (computer and non-computer) games and computer use for leisure increased 31%. [3]  Time spent playing computer games and using computers for leisure is likely to continue to increase relatively rapidly in the future.

Time use by age categories suggests that easing loneliness is an important value of media use.  Persons 75 years and older spent about twice as much time watching television and reading as do persons ages 15 to 19 years. The former, elderly group also spend 36% less time socializing and communicating than do the young, later group. Easy-to-use social networking technology potentially could offer the elderly a more engaging way to spend their time.

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Data: U.S. time use data (Excel version)


[1] These figures are for time watching television as the primary activity in non-work time. They are based on well-developed, openly documented time-budget surveys.  Other commercially produced statistics of television watching time are considerable higher.  See Galbi (2001) Section III.  The second figure is based on comparisons among American Time Use Surveys.  In these surveys, a separate category specifies “computer use for leisure.”  Hence television-watching time is best interpreted to mean watching video on the traditional special-purpose and specially placed device called a television.  For the data, see U.S. time use data.

[2] Persons in the U.S. ages 15 and older watched about 4600 minutes of television per month in 2006, compared to about136 minutes of online (web) video per month in March, 2008. See note [2], sources and details of television vs. online video. A widely cited comparison of television watching time to “personal Internet time” was quite misleading.

[3] See worksheet on U.S. time use trends over the past six years.

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