In 2011, American households watched an average of eight and a half hours of television every day. That’s more TV than any other nation tracked by the OECD. And we didn’t sneak into the lead with a few extra tenths of a point – we watch nearly double the TV consumed by second-place Hungary.
So it’s fair to ask – are we addicted to television? Or is this a quantifiable confirmation that we’re in the midst of a Golden Age of Television?
It’s actually a bit of both.
These numbers reflect a few realities. The first is the sheer number of hours of content available to the American viewer. In some cases, it’s orders of magnitude more than other nations. The American cable ecosystem has allowed for hundreds of niche channels with programming dedicated to reaching a diverse population. Are you really into military history? Good. We’ve got a channel for that. What about cartoons? Got that, too. They even have original programming.
The second is access. The barriers to content in the U.S. are incredibly low. Our ability to watch TV on just about any device from any location is exceptional. I can watch on-demand programming, live programming or DVR programming from my iPad. Then, pick up where I left off on my smartphone. Then, finish it off at home on my TV. Who’s surprised this kind of flexibility has lead to high consumption?
And the third reason is our TV is better. Much, much better. This may sound subjective – an unfair qualifier in a quantitative conversation – but quality is most certainly a factor. Every time the TV turns on, another stunningly creative, chronic show is served up. TV has allowed all-new depths of storytelling. It’s put American TV in a class of its own. Even the world-renowned BBC struggles to put out the sheer volume of super-premium shows the U.S. cable industry is creating year in and year out. With this much good stuff on TV, it’s impossible not to watch just one more episode.
With this level of quality, accessibility, and volume, it’s no surprise we out-watch our international peers. And that we’re a teensy bit addicted.