The Average U.S. TV Viewer Gets 189 Channels – Watches 17

If only cable cutting really would save us money! (Eh, that’s a reference to one of TVWriter™’s most popular posts of the last week – LB Ponders Cutting the Cable-Satellite Cord.)

charttimeby Megan Geuss

In a blog post on Tuesday, Nielsen reported that on average, US homes receive 189.1 TV channels, but viewers only watch 17.5 of those channels.

The news will appear in Nielsen’s forthcoming “Advertising & Audiences Report,” and while the results seem somewhat intuitive, they articulate a very real problem in cable TV—the fact that consumers often feel forced into paying for a lot of TV they never watch.

Nielsen’s blog post today showed that the number of cable channels in an average US household has grown dramatically over the last five years, but the number of channels that viewers actually watch has hardly changed at all. In 2008, US households received an average of 129.3 channels but only actually viewed 17.3 channels. In 2013, the number of channels received increased 46 percent, but the number of channels viewed only increased 1 percent.

The data, Nielsen says, “substantiates the notion that more content does not necessarily equate to more channel consumption. And that means quality is imperative—for both content creators and advertisers.”

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One thought on “The Average U.S. TV Viewer Gets 189 Channels – Watches 17

  1. joyismyname says:

    Excellent observation.

    We were all just talking about all the cancellations, shows with $50 million already out the door not given a chance at a second season because they couldn’t hit a 1.0 rating (or more esoteric reasons such as greedy casts or state film commissions continually looking for ways to kill the goose that laid the golden egg).

    The more channels you have available the harder it is to hit that 1.0. Yes, everyone might only be watching 17 out of the 200 they have available to them, but everyone is also watching a different 17 than everyone else. Your “Pretty Little Liars” can’t compete with my “True Detective,” and vice-versa. Millions of viewers drop down to hundreds of thousands, rapidly, and $3 or $4 million per hour gets harder and harder to recoup.

    It seems it would be less risky to help a show that’s already on the air to find its legs than to put up a whole new show from scratch – and its attendant sunk costs. Some of these are jokes, like “Dads” or “Friends with Better Lives,” but some might be worth the effort, like “Sean Saves the World” or “Intelligence.”

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