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Americans now watch more TV than ever

November 24, 2008 |  2:17 pm

Watching TV You know that scene from Wall-E where all the humans are sitting around the pool watching their TV screens? And you probably thought, "Well, too bad if people living in 1,000 years just sit around and watch TV all day, but humans today aren't like that." Or are we?

Last week, we heard that people don't even have to get up from their couches to order a pizza anymore -- they can just order it from their TiVo. And a new Nielsen study released today finds Americans are watching more TV than ever before. The average U.S. household watched TV for 8 hours and 18 minutes a day from September 2007 to September 2008, which is a record high since the days Nielsen Co. started measuring television in the 1950s.

In the third quarter of 2008, Americans watched more than 142 hours of TV a month, which is up five hours from the same period last year. And Americans spent 50% more time ...

... watching time-shifted TV (through a DVR, for instance) than they did during the same period last year.

What gives? Are we well on our way to becoming lazy, TV-watching boobs who can be saved only by a rusty robot and his band of wacky helper robots?

Part of the increase in TV-watching comes from the fact that we have more TVs in homes than ever before, said Gary Holmes, a spokesman for the Nielsen. That means that little Suzie can watch "Gossip Girl" in her bedroom while Mom watches "Dancing with the Stars" in the basement and Dad watches football in the den. There also are more and more niche channels, which means more people are interested in the shows currently on TV, he said. This year, the Olympics and the political campaigns brought a lot of people to TVs who wouldn't necessarily have been watching so much.

And then there's the economy. In tough economic times, Americans tend to stay home and watch TV rather than go out to dinner or buy things such as more TVs, Holmes said. Not that the lack of new TVs will stop them from watching a boob tube: Online video use is still growing, as is the average amount of time per month that people report watching mobile video.

So Wall-E, if you're coming to save us, maybe try fixing the economy first to get people out of their homes. Then you can get to work on saving humanity.

-- Alana Semuels

Photo by D. via Flickr

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