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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]


See also: Commercial skipping

As television becomes more widespread and easily accessible, television viewing continues to increase, but as the younger generation adopts new forms of entertainment, television viewership has dropped in recent years. Television viewing peaked in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has slightly decreased to an estimated 2 hours and 33 minutes daily in 2023.[2] Although television viewership has declined over the years, people are still watching content on screens. People are watching more content on streaming platforms through their phones, tablets, and laptops, as opposed to a traditional television. Streaming service usage continues to grow, and from May 2021 to May 2022, it grew 21%, to now accounting for 32% of total television time. [3]

Starting at the beginning of 2023, streaming services saw a decline in viewership across the board. In a survey asking which services audiences use at least once a week, Netflix lost a few, but maintains their lead at 68.3%. Disney+ lost 5.4%, bringing them to 32.3%, and Hulu also went down 4.6% to 42.6%. 85% of people say they use a streaming service, with 15% saying they don't use one. [4]

From 2013-2017, adults in the 65 and older demographic spent the most time watching television, about 4.3 hours, while 25-34 year olds watched the least amount per day, just over 2 hours. Employed individuals, including full- and part-time, watched about 2.2 hours worth of television, while unemployed individuals watched about an hour and a half more of television, around 3.8 hours. Of individuals 65 and older, 80.2% were not employed, and this group watched about 4.5 hours of television per day. Retirement is the most likely reason for these higher numbers, as those in the younger demographic are entering the workforce and starting families, requiring them to divert and focus their time and attention away from television.[5] 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.[6] The time spent watching commercials is reduced when watching recorded TV.[7] It has even been surmised that due to media multitasking, TV commercials are largely ignored.[8]

Change in consumption

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.[9] 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 used 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.[9] 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.[10]


Main article: Binge-watching

Binge-watching is the act of watching multiple episodes of a program in a single sitting.[11] 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.[11]

In the summer of 2013, all the episodes to Season 4 of Arrested Development was released on Netflix, and 10% of their viewers watched the entire season in 24 hours. When House of Cards 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.[9]

A risk of binge-watching is that it may lead a viewer to developing symptoms of behavioral addiction. Binge-watching to gain instant satisfaction is a negative coping strategy of behavioral addiction that may be compared to gambling in terms of its problematic nature.[12] One of the most popular motivations for problematic binge-watching is the ability to experience escape and to overcome a feeling of loneliness.[13] 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.[14]

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.[15][16] 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.[17][18] Research done by Merill and Rubenking also shows a relation between binge-watching and procrastination.[19]

Effects of Television consumption

As streaming continues and people binge-watch content, it can invite negative and unhealthy side effects. Watching television for hours on end isn't healthy for the individual's body and brain, so as more time is spent in front of the screen, more damage can be done.


Across cultures, television consumption has been associated to cause an overweight, inactive lifestyle among high school students across the United States.[20] Sedentary activities, such as consuming television, combined with soda consumption create positive energy in adolescents and contributes to childhood obesity.[21] Adolescents over 15 have a more structured schedule, going into high school and possibly also work, therefore they don't have as much time for television. Those under 15, however, have more free time, and they fill it up with television. Children and adolescents under 15 are more vulnerable to obesity as their bodies are adjusting and growing. Those in the age group who watch over 2 hours worth of television a day are twice as likely to become obese than those who watch less than 2 hours a day. The urge for food intake is increased when in front of a screen, which includes TV, computer, and video games. The food intake urge paired with TV commercials and advertisements for junk food and fast food only strengthens the urge, therefore increasing the obesity numbers.[22] 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.[20]

Television and body attitudes among adolescents

Many shows and films on television portray thin and fit actors. Without full representation, those who don't reflect the thin and fit looks of those on screen feel as if they don't meet societal norms. Society's idea of a perfect body can greatly lower the self-esteem of adolescents who view their bodies as not meeting what society deems as the ideal look. Many shows and advertisements feature thin women and muscular men. While companies are making moves to change those stereotypes, it still is influential in the minds of adolescents, and can damage their self-esteem.[23] 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.[24] In terms of the content that is being displayed in these television programs, it is important to evaluate the qualities 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 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 used 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.[25] 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.[26]

Crime shows and attitudes towards crime

Television continues to have a strong influence and impact on society. With many crime shows depicting factually incorrect information about crime, viewers are misled to believe the information from the show, therefore having a skewed perspective on the reality of crime. Those who consume more television, especially local and national news and crime shows, believe there are more violent crimes in society than there really are, and also have unrealistic views and expectations about the police force.[27] Regular consumption of various crime shows are 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.[28] 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.

Global view

The United States lead the global list of daily TV viewing time in 2015, followed by Poland, Japan, Italy, and Russia.[29] According to other statistics, the UK was top, followed by the US, France, Indonesia, Kenya and Nigeria in 2014.[30] In 2002, the US and the UK were ranked equal with 28 hours per person per week, followed by Italy, Germany, France, and Ireland.[31]

Television grows and evolves worldwide, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, television consumption increased everywhere. In Europe, mid-day news consumption in total doubled, and grew the most among younger viewers, up 20%. In the US, television consumption during the first weeks of the pandemic increased around 60%, evening news viewership grew 42% during the same period, and cable news viewership grew by 92%, compared to the months prior. [32]

Currently, worldwide media consumption averages at around 455 minutes per day. As technology continues to evolve, we adapt and change to how we receive our entertainment and information. From 2015-2020, traditional TV consumption in 18-34 year olds has dropped 14%. Some of this may be due to a switch to streaming on mobile devices which differ from traditional viewing methods, while still part of it may be due to other forms of media, like social media and games, that also account for media consumption. In Japan, daily viewership of TV broadcasting was around 3 hours and 42 minutes as of 2019. While the numbers may have dropped, TV broadcasts are still in use and relied upon for news, entertainment, and other uses. As 2023 continues on, worldwide paid VOD subscriptions are expected to reach 1.79 billion. With an increase in streaming services and VOD content, and also with the ease of mobility, there are more ways than ever to watch television. [33]

Average media consumption (minutes per day) in 2015[34]
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


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