Television consumption

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A group of people watching television

Television consumption is a major part of media consumption in Western culture. Similar to other high-consumption ways of life, television watching is prompted by a quest for pleasure, escape, and "anesthesia." Obsessively watching television can be compared with common criteria for addictions, such as the inability to function at work or home, and negative consequences may arise from heavy or addictive consumption.[1]


In the US, there are an estimated 119.9 million TV households in the TV season 2018/19.

In 2017, an average U.S. consumer spent 238 minutes (3h 58min) daily watching TV.[2] While overall media consumption continues to rise, live TV consumption was on the decline in 2016.[3]

In 2009 the numbers were generally lower but still amounted to 9 years in front of the screen for an average 65-year-old American (more than 4 h/day, 28 h/week). Given the 30% of local TV news broadcast time devoted to advertising, this results in 2 million TV commercials seen by the average person by age 65. An average child in the US will see 20,000 30-second TV commercials per year.[4] The time spent watching commercials is reduced when watching recorded TV.[5] It has even been surmised that due to media multitasking, TV commercials are largely ignored.[6]

Change in consumption[edit]

With the growing effect of streaming sites and online television, there is an upward trend towards OTT (over-the-top) streaming sites, which causes a disruptive effect on cable television.[7] In 2013, 63% of the households in the United States have been using a video streaming and delivery service, and 22% of those households watch Netflix every week of the year. In English Canada, Netflix is owned by 25% of households, and that increases to 33% for households with teens. Having the ability to watch commercial-free episodes at any given time and however and wherever the consumer desires, Netflix is shifting the way viewers consume television to a more digitalized, online manner.[7] The COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to stay inside, unable to travel or go to work in most cases, this affected television consumption as people did not have many other activities able to do. As a result, studies taken between May and December 2020 showed that Americans averaged 3.1 hours a day of television. In 2020, watching television, whether it was viewing DVD’s, streaming shows, watching cable, or watching on a portable device, was the leisure activity that occupied the most time out of any activity.[8]


Binge-watching can be defined as: "the experience of watching multiple episodes of a program in a single sitting."[9] This phenomenon originated in the Digital Age when streaming videos became easily accessible due to the advancement in technology and the low costs of unlimited bandwidth. Binge-watching has initiated the notion that by using this style of consumption, viewers have a greater understanding and knowledge of the show and character development, versus viewers who don't binge-watch. This overall greater understanding of the viewer has caused program executives and scholars to create a deeper understanding of uses and gratifications to continue to motivate consumers to use this style of viewing.[9] In the summer of 2013, all the episodes to Season 4 of Arrested Development (TV series) was released on Netflix, and 10% of their viewers watched the entire season in 24 hours. When House of Cards (U.S. TV series) and Orange Is the New Black also released full seasons at a time in 2013 on Netflix, high percentage of viewers watched back-to-back episodes and finished the seasons within days. Even though these series are all different genres, the truth of binge-watching remains constant widespread.[7] Binge-watching can offer risks to viewers. A major risk to binge-watching is that it may lead a viewer to developing symptoms of behavioral addiction. Binge-watching in order to gain instant satisfaction is a negative coping strategy of behavioral addiction that may be compared to gambling in terms of its problematic nature.[10] One of the most popular motivations for problematic binge-watching is the ability to experience escape and to overcome a feeling of loneliness.[11] Even though binge-watching is not inherently bad, excessive binge-watching may be a result of existing mental health disorders such as depression and social anxiety, and it may be harmful for vulnerable individuals.[12] In 2013, a research study showed that 62% of the American population admit to binge-watching on a regular basis. Studies show that people between the age of 18 and 39 are more likely to binge-watch TV shows compared to people 39 and older and of these ages regarding gender the only statistical difference is what genre of television each gender prefers more.[13][14] There have been an increased amount of studies on the effects of binge-watching, some showing that binge-watching is similar to addictions to video games and social media addiction as it provides immediate gratification which can cause the watcher to lose self-control and spend more time watching than they initially anticipated.[15][16] Research done by Merill and Rubenking also shows a relation between binge-watching and procrastination.[17]

Television consumption and obesity[edit]

Across cultures, television consumption has been associated to cause an overweight, inactive lifestyle among high school students across the United States.[18] Sedentary activities, such as consuming television, combined with soda consumption create positive energy in adolescents and contributes to childhood obesity.[19] From a sample of over 15,000 high school students, 43% of those students exceeded 2 hours a day of television viewing on a regular school day. Overall, 31% of the sample did not participate in daily physical activity, 11% were overweight, and 76% ate an insufficient amount of servings of fruit and vegetables. Watching television for 2 hours a day was correlated to being overweight and sedentary for White male and females, as well as Hispanic females. Among Black males, the amount of television consumption was associated with an increase on physical activity. There was no correlation for Black females and Hispanic males.[18]

Television and body attitudes among adolescents[edit]

In a study of 1,452 high school students, there was an association between what type of television was consumed and the effects each genre had on the body image of an adolescent. It was found that time watching soap operas had a direct correlation with a drive to thinness in both genders, and also the drive for muscularity in boys.[20] Entertainment, social learning, and escape from negative effect are seen as the three main components of television usage, and other than entertainment, the components have a significant correlations to negative outcomes for both males and females. This study suggests that the correlation between negative body images among adolescents and television consumption is based on the types of content and motives for watching, not the total amount.[20] In terms of the content that is being displayed in these television programs, it is important to evaluate the quality that are given to the characters, by extension, the actors and actresses of these programs. The main characters of these televised programs are frequently portrayed by actors and actresses that fit into the attractive and thinner beauty standards. These attractive and thin actors and actresses frequently portray characters that are given successful story arcs and positions within their programs. In comparison, the actors and actresses that are viewed as less attractive and not as thin as their co-stars often portray characters that are utilized as the butt of jokes or less successful. These portrayals go beyond the screen as these main actors and actresses are also viewed as successful as their television characters. [21] These media portrayals and the promotion of the 'thin ideal' create a standard that physical beauty is the most important element of a woman as well as establishes more benefits for those that can fit into these ideas of beauty. In contrast, the standard would reenforce a conflicting standard that those that do not fit into these beauty ideals will not have access to these benefits and would be more likely to be subjected to negative social attitudes. [22]

Crime shows and attitudes towards crime[edit]

As research has suggested, the majority of public knowledge about crime and justice is learned from the media.[23] Since the study did not factor in the difference in types of crime and investigation shows, the study could not include insight on what type of crime show caused what behaviour/attitude. However, it concluded that regular consumption of various crime shows is not related to perceived police effectiveness and punishment-type attitudes, but is related to the viewers overall fear of crime. Also, the amount of time spent viewing these shows had no correlation to perceived police effectiveness, punitive attitudes, or fear of crime.[23] Further research has suggested that the correlation to crime shows and viewer's attitudes of crime, is dependent on program type. Programs that showcased more fear driven responses were those that depicted a more violence centered viewing. Another element for higher fear driven attitudes was dependent on just how realistic the stories are and if the location of the event is near the viewer. Examples of different program types would be that national news does not showcase much in terms of violence, location or realism had a lower fear response while local news does showcase these elements in a higher degree, thus, promoting a higher fear response. Even though both programs often have a conclusion to these crimes, it does not have much of an affect in reducing people's fear towards crime. [24]

Global view[edit]

In 2014, counting all four possible "screens" (TV set, PC, mobile phone/smartphone and tablet computer) and taking into account time-shifted TV, the worldwide consumption had risen by 7 minutes over 2013. Slight decreases in North America and Asia were more than compensated by increases in Latin America and Africa. The most popular genre worldwide, according to observations at 2016's TV and digital content event MIPTV, is drama.[25]

The United States lead the global list of daily TV viewing time in 2015, followed by Poland, Japan, Italy, and Russia.[26] According to other statistics, the UK was top, followed by the US, France, Indonesia, Kenya and Nigeria in 2014.[27] In 2002, the US and the UK were ranked equal with 28 hours per person per week, followed by Italy, Germany, France, and Ireland.[28]

Besides the continuing slow decline in average viewing times for the traditional linear TV, ZenithMedia has predicted a decline also for the number of viewers in 2015 also[29]

As in the US, worldwide media consumption continues to rise, but live TV consumption was on the decline in 2015 and predicted to drop even further with a marked decrease from 2010 from 195.6 min/day to 179.5 min/day (~3 h/day, 21 h/week).[30]

Average media consumption (minutes per day) in 2015[30]
Region min/day
Asia Pacific 154.5
Central and Eastern Europe 222.9
Latin America 199.0
North America 292.6
MENA 249.7
Western Europe 220.5
Rest of world 211.0

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sussman, Steve (1 September 2013). "Hidden addiction: Television". Journal of Behavioral Addictions. 2 (3): 125–132. doi:10.1556/JBA.2.2013.008. PMC 4114517. PMID 25083294.
  2. ^ "U.S. media usage - time spent watching television 2020 | Statistic". Statista. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  3. ^ Jason Lynch (27 June 2016). "U.S. Adults Consume an Entire Hour More of Media Per Day Than They Did Just Last Year – For daily total of 10 hours, 39 minutes". Live TV usage among U.S. adults is still declining, down three minutes from the first quarter 2015, but not as rapidly as in recent years. Nielsen notes the live TV decline was much more pronounced between 2013 and 2014, when it dropped by 16 minutes.
  4. ^ "Television & Health". California State University, Northridge. 2009.
  5. ^ "TV advertising skipped by 86% of viewers". The Guardian. 2010. nearly 90% of television viewers always skip through the adverts on their digital video recorder but TV still remains the most memorable form of advertising
  6. ^ "Why TV advertising means nothing in the age of the smartphone". CNBC. 2015. "Every 15 or 20 minutes, right when there's a commercial break on TV, you just see this massive peak in [mobile] activity," ... That means that even if Nielsen ratings—the industry standard for selling advertisements against a program—say that a million people watch a show, a lot of them are essentially shutting their eyes to the ad breaks.
  7. ^ a b c Matrix, Sidneyeve (5 September 2014). "The Netflix Effect: Teens, Binge Watching, and On-Demand Digital Media Trends". Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. 6 (1): 119–138. doi:10.1353/jeu.2014.0002. ISSN 1920-261X. S2CID 111039430.
  8. ^ Hubbard, Kaia (22 July 2021). "Outside of Sleeping, Americans Spend Most of Their Time Watching Television". U.S.News.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b Pittman, Matthew; Sheehan, Kim (5 October 2015). "Sprinting a media marathon: Uses and gratifications of binge-watching television through Netflix". First Monday. 20 (10).
  10. ^ Starosta, Jolanta A. (1 June 2020). "Understanding the Phenomenon of Binge-Watching—A Systematic Review". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 17 (12): 4469. doi:10.3390/ijerph17124469. PMC 7344932. PMID 32580289.
  11. ^ Starosta, Jolanta; Izydorczyk, Bernadetta; Lizińczyk, Sebastian (2019). "Characteristics of people's binge-watching behavior in the "entering into early adulthood" period of life". Health Psychology Report. 7 (2): 149–164. doi:10.5114/hpr.2019.83025. ISSN 2353-4184. S2CID 150624409.
  12. ^ Flayelle, Maèva; Canale, Natale; Vögele, Claus; Karila, Laurent; Maurage, Pierre; Billieux, Joël (January 2019). "Assessing binge-watching behaviors: Development and validation of the "Watching TV Series Motives" and "Binge-watching Engagement and Symptoms" questionnaires". Computers in Human Behavior. 90: 26–36. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2018.08.022. S2CID 53472628.
  13. ^ Interactive, Harris. "Americans Taking Advantage of Ability to Watch TV on Their Own Schedules". Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  14. ^ "Number of Netflix Subscribers in 2022/2023: Growth, Revenue, and Usage". 19 February 2020. Retrieved 9 April 2022.
  15. ^ Flayelle, Maèva; Canale, Natale; Vögele, Claus; Karila, Laurent; Maurage, Pierre; Billieux, Joël (1 January 2019). "Assessing binge-watching behaviors: Development and validation of the "Watching TV Series Motives" and "Binge-watching Engagement and Symptoms" questionnaires". Computers in Human Behavior. 90: 26–36. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2018.08.022. ISSN 0747-5632. S2CID 53472628.
  16. ^ Pierce-Grove, Ri (2017). "Just one more: How journalists frame binge watching". First Monday. doi:10.5210/fm.v22i1.7269. ISSN 1396-0466.
  17. ^ Merrill Jr., Kelly; Rubenking, Bridget (January 2019). "Go Long or Go Often: Influences on Binge Watching Frequency and Duration among College Students". Social Sciences. 8 (1): 10. doi:10.3390/socsci8010010. ISSN 2076-0760.
  18. ^ a b Lowry, Richard; Wechsler, Howell; Galuska, Deborah A.; Fulton, Janet E.; Kann, Laura (December 2002). "Television Viewing and its Associations with Overweight, Sedentary Lifestyle, and Insufficient Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables Among US High School Students: Differences by Race, Ethnicity, and Gender". Journal of School Health. 72 (10): 413–421. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2002.tb03551.x. ISSN 0022-4391. PMID 12617028.
  19. ^ de Bruijn, Gert-Jan; van den Putte, Bas (August 2009). "Adolescent soft drink consumption, television viewing and habit strength. Investigating clustering effects in the Theory of Planned Behaviour". Appetite. 53 (1): 66–75. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2009.05.008. PMID 19463873. S2CID 135440141.
  20. ^ a b Tiggemann, Marika (May 2005). "Television and Adolescent Body Image: The Role of Program Content and Viewing Motivation". Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. 24 (3): 361–381. doi:10.1521/jscp.24.3.361.65623. hdl:2328/13589. ISSN 0736-7236.
  21. ^ Harrison, K (2000). "The body electric: Thin-ideal media and eating disorders in adolescents". Journal of Communication. 50 (1): 119–143. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2000.tb02856.x. hdl:2027.42/75586.
  22. ^ Kinnally, & Van Vonderen, K.E (2014). "Body Image and the Role of Television: Clarifying and Modelling the Effect of Television on Body Dissatisfaction". Journal of Creative Communications. 9 (3): 215–233. doi:10.1177/0973258614545016. S2CID 145380274.
  23. ^ a b Dowler, Kenneth. Media Consumption and Public Attitudes Toward Crime and Justice: The Relationship Between Fear of Crime, Punitive Attitudes, and Perceived Police Effectiveness. California State University at Bakersfield.
  24. ^ Eschholz, Sarah (2003). "Crime on Television—Issues in Criminal Justice". Journal of the Instituted of Justice and International Studies. 2: 9–18.
  25. ^ "How is TV consumption changing around the world?". euronews. 6 April 2016. Average TV viewing times vary a lot around the world, there has been a decrease in some regions, like North America and Asia but an increase in Latin America and Africa. Overall though, compared with 2014, the viewing time of traditional TV has decreased by around 3 minutes per day. However when you take into account the amount of 'non-linear' viewing going on (using data from a few countries that have started to measure 4-screen audiences) you see an additional 7 minutes of watch time per day.
  26. ^ "Average daily TV viewing time per person in selected countries worldwide in 2015 (in minutes)".
  27. ^ Thompson, Derek (28 May 2014). "How the World Consumes Media—in Charts and Maps". Retrieved 30 July 2017.
  28. ^ "Media > Television viewing: Countries Compared". Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  29. ^ "Mobile to drive 19.8% increase in online video consumption in 2016". zenithmedia. 2015. the number of regular linear TV viewers has been in decline in France and Russia since 2013, in the UK and the US since 2014, and is expected to start to decline in China this year. The decline of linear TV viewing is in direct correlation with the increasing quantity and quality of content available online, both from short-form platforms like YouTube and long-form platforms like Netflix. ZenithOptimedia forecasts that the number of regular online video viewers will increase by 5.8% in 2015, 5.1% in 2016 and 5.3% in 2017.
  30. ^ a b Anne Austin, Jonathan Barnard, Nicola Hutcheon (2015). "Media Consumption Forecasts" (PDF). zenithmedia. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 March 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

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