Americans’ Screen Time Activities Evolve Away from TV & Movies

March 7, 2022

Although TV still occupies the largest share of Americans’ screen-based leisure time, other activities are consuming more of this time. A report [download page] from Hub Entertainment Research reveals that about 3 in 10 Americans agree that they are spending less time watching traditional TV and movies because of other screen options. 

In 2020, US consumers (ages 13-74) spent the majority of their screen-based leisure time either watching TV (38%) or movies (15%). However, in 2021 that time shrunk to less than half, with 34% of this time being spent watching TV and 14% watching movies. Instead of watching TV and movies, Americans are opting to spend a little more of their time watching online videos. This activity saw a slight lift in the share of screen-time, from 11% in 2020 to 12% in 2021. 

While online video viewing only saw a slight increase in its share of screen-based leisure time, gaming has claimed an even larger piece of the pie. Indeed, gaming accounted for 16% of screen-time last year, up from 12% the year earlier. This corresponds with research from NPD Group which shows that the average number of hours spent playing video games each week increased by nearly two hours between 2020 and 2021.

Screen-Based Leisure Time by Age

How younger consumers (ages 13-24) spend their screen-based leisure time is noticeably different than how consumers ages 35 and older spend that time. These older adults’ screen-time is still firmly based on watching TV and movies, with the two activities accounting for 60% of their screen-based leisure time. This group spends less of its screen time with activities such as gaming (11%), despite earlier research showing that time spent playing video games has increased among older adults

On the other hand, gaming accounts for a full quarter of screen-based leisure time among 13-24-year-olds. That’s equal to the share of time this age group spends with TV (13%) and movies (12%) combined. This trend away from TV for younger people can be seen in research from Morning Consult and Verizon, which shows that about 8 in 10 Gen Z consumers spend time weekly playing online games on their mobiles, while fewer than 7 in 10 spend time each week watching live TV. 

Furthermore, younger Americans are spending at least – if not more – of their screen time watching online videos (19% share), using social media (13%) as they are watching TV. 

Traditional TV vs. Online Video

When looking at the average hours spent per week, TV is still winning the war against non-premium online videos across age groups, with this data among those who report that they watch online videos at all. That edge for TV is fairly narrow when it comes to 13-24-year-olds, though. This age group watches an average of 15.3 hours of traditional TV per week compared to 13.7 hours spent watching non-premium online videos.

The gap between the two mediums widens with age. Respondents ages 25-34 say they watch an average of 18.8 hours of TV each week versus the 12.2 hours they spend watching online videos. And, while respondents ages 35+ watch some 22.7 hours watching TV, they only spend an average of 8.7 hours per week watching online videos.

An excerpt of the report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 2,179 US consumers ages 13-74 who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week and have broadband services.

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