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A nation of televisions

We continue to be outnumbered — and it’s not getting better. Rather, the gap between the number of television sets in American households and the number of people in those households continues to grow.

At least that’s what the latest Nielsen Television Audience sruvey says. The average American home has 2.86 TV sets, about 18% higher than in 2000 (2.43 sets) and 43% higher than in 1990 (2.0 sets). In comparison, the average U.S. home has only 2.53 people. But that’s nothing new. Televisions have outnumbered people per household since at least 2005. And while the number of televisions per household continues to increase, the number of people per household has stayed roughly the same.

A few other interesting and occasionally frightening facts from the survey:

  • Only 72% of TV households have VCRs, the lowest number in more than a decade. VCR saturation peaked in 2005 when 90% percent of TV households had them
  • In contrast, 24% percent of TV households have DVRs, compared to 19% percent a year ago, while 88% of households have a DVD player.
  • Interestingly, 65 percent of households with TVs have no one under the age of 18 living in them.
  • In 2008, the average home received 130.1 channels.
  • Households tuned tuned into television a stunning 58 hours and 27 minutes per week, a 40 minute increase from the previous year, and equal to more than 8 hours per day.
  • The average person spent 33 hours and 13 minutes watching TV each week, an increase of about an hour from the year before.
  • More than $42 billion (with a “b”) was invested in television advertising in 2008. Business and finance accounted for 29% of that, followed by drugs and toiletries (17%) and leisure (14%).

Me, I’m in the Frank Zappa camp:

I am gross and perverted
I’m obsessed ‘n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little has changed
I’m the tool of the Government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think I’m delicious
With the stuff that I say
I’m the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I’m the slime oozin’ out
From your TV set


How do you put on a meaningful drama or documentary that is adult, incisive, probing when every fifteen minutes the proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits with toilet paper?

Rod Serling, Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval

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