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Nielsen study: We're still a nation of couch pumpkins

November 18, 2010 |  3:33 pm

TV watching continues to be America's favorite pastime.

In its "State of the Media: TV Usage Trends," the Nielsen Co. said Thursday the average person watched more than 143 hours of television a month during the second quarter of 2010. (Nielsen, however, stopped short of exploring potential causes of airwave rage. This week a Wisconsin man shot his television after Bristol Palin advanced to the final round of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars.")

And while the rate of TV consumption was "essentially flat compared to the same period a year ago," Nielsen said that people are indeed watching a little differently.

"The emergence of the DVR as a widely distributed device has changed viewing behaviors in many homes," the research firm said. The average person who has a digital video recorder watches more than 24 hours a month of recorded shows.

Not surprising is that younger viewers -- particularly those aged 25 to 34 -- were more apt to use DVRs.  "That demographic watched 29 1/2 hours of DVR playback per month," the Nielsen report said. That represents a 20% increase over older viewers' usage.

The trend suggests that traditional network scheduling patterns eventually will become less important. Broadcast networks have already begun to feel the pinch as dramas running in the 10 p.m. hour have been getting smaller audiences. Ten o'clock appears to be prime time for DVR viewing.

Similar to past findings, teenagers watch fewer hours of television. Viewing increases as people get older and more settled. Nielsen also said that women watch more TV than men, 54% to 46%.

Nielsen did not offer corresponding statistics on the size or fitness of American TV viewers. But given recent studies on eating habits and obesity, it seems appropriate to replace couch potato with couch pumpkin.

-- Meg James