Viewers Getting More Channel Choices, Still Watching Only 17 Total

In 2013, the average number of TV channels in a typical U.S. home was just over 189. This was up nearly 50% over the average of 129 channels five years earlier, in 2008.

But here’s the kicker: We still view on average just 17.5 of those channels -- or 9% of the total pool. This number was a nearly identical 17.3 channels in 2008, according to Nielsen data.  Meanwhile, lots of other research shows we are watching more TV, as well as using and engaging with other media.

Pay TV providers love to tell us how they are giving us more choice. That’s the good news. The trade-off? We should pay more for all that choice.

What does the average number of channels watched mean in terms of future channel desires? The jury is out.

Nielsen doesn’t say, for example, whether the 17 channels the typical home was watching in 2013 are the same 17 channels they were watching in 2008



Proponents of a la carte programming delivery would say this kind of research proves their point: We should only pay for the channels we watch.

But pay TV providers and content producers continue to argue this would mean less choice -- because many networks wouldn’t be able to survive once they lost the scale and reach needed to sell national advertising time.

Pay TV pricing can be $100-125 per month on average for many homes. There is little doubt these numbers will continue to climb. Consumers have probably seen double-digit percentage growth in monthly TV bills over the last five years -- all because of increased channel choices.

Does it matter if the 60 additional channels since 2008 are new, unproven efforts? Some -- like Esquire Network, Fox Sports 1 and The Hub -- come from previously established cable networks with big distribution bases.  Still, newer niche channels don’t hit the ground running with big nationwide viewership.

Cable’s audience continues to grow -- but virtually all the growth comes from mid-level to small networks. Established, top-ten cable networks now have the same audience erosion problems as the broadcast networks.

If the 17 channels we watch today are not the ones we watched five years ago, then perhaps we should look forward another five years: We won’t want the same 17 we watch now in 2018.

1 comment about "Viewers Getting More Channel Choices, Still Watching Only 17 Total".
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  1. Edmund Singleton from Winstion Communications, May 9, 2014 at 5:56 a.m.

    A little note on human nature; One always buys brand X, except when in the super market, where one always buys brand X, go figure...

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