How Much Time Do US Adults Spend Watching TV?

March 31, 2023

Streaming video continues to grow in the US, and this has been largely due to “the widespread adoption of digital connectivity that took place as audiences dove into new content options in mid-2020 to stay occupied as the COVID-19 pandemic set in.” So says Nielsen in new data revealing how Americans are engaging with TV.

Nielsen points out that about 85% of US households had at least one TV-connected device as of mid-January 2023, and that at that time, more than one-third (35.5%) of homes accessed their TV solely through a broadband internet connection (“BBO homes”). The prevalence of these homes has previously been tracked by Nielsen, which noted at the time that these households tend to be younger, larger, and with slightly higher incomes than the average.

TV viewing time has largely stabilized to pre-pandemic levels, per the research: during Q4 2022 the average US adult spent 294 minutes per day with TV, down slightly from 303 during Q4 2019.

The distribution of that time has shifted meaningfully, though. While just 58 of those 303 minutes (roughly 19%) in Q4 2019 were spent with TV-connected devices as opposed to broadcast or cable, that figure almost doubled to 106 minutes in Q4 2022, representing some 36% of time spent with TV, overtaking cable for the first time last year.

Time spent with content accessed with an internet connection has come at the expense of both broadcast and cable, though the latter has suffered more. Notably, homes that receive TV programming through traditional cable and satellite services – where broadcast and cable programming is dominant – are also adding non-traditional content to the mix. Adults in these homes – which represented a leading 51.5% of TV households in Q3 2022 – spent 69 minutes per day with TV-connected devices during the third quarter, up from 40 minutes during Q3 2019. This increase has not come at the expense of broadcast or cable, which have largely remained stable in viewing minutes over that period.

Large Racial/Ethnic Viewing Gap Persists

Black adults have in the past watched much more traditional TV than Hispanic and Asian-American adults, and this latest data from Nielsen confirms that this continues to be the case.

Last year, Black adults spent an average of 3 hours and 42 minutes per day watching live TV, more than double the amount of time spent by Hispanic adults (1 hours and 42 minutes) and about triple that of Asian-American adults (1 hour and 15 minutes per day).

Black adults also spent more time last year watching DVR playback each day (42 minutes) than Hispanic and Asian-American adults (16 minutes each). And their affinity for TV content was not limited to traditional TV: spending 2 hours and 25 minutes per day with TV-connected devices, they outpaced both Hispanic adults (1 hour and 42 minutes per day) and Asian-American adults (1 hour and 24 minutes per day).

In another difference, whereas Black adults spent upwards of 1 hour more with live TV than TV-connected devices each day last year, Hispanic adults spent as much time with TV-connected devices as with live TV, and Asian-American adults spent more time watching content via TV-connected devices than on live TV.

For more, check out Nielsen’s data here.


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