Who’s Watching How Many TV Channels?

October 3, 2016

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Asian-American | Boomers & Older | Hispanic | Teens & Younger | Television | TV Audiences & Consumption | Youth & Gen X

nielsen-number-channels-viewed-by-age-race-ethnicity-svod-access-sept2016American adults received an average of 206 channels during the month of May, but watched less than 10% of those for roughly 20 channels viewed, details a recent report [download page] from Nielsen. Black Americans, who are the heaviest TV viewers, had the most number of TV channels available to them (218) and watched the largest percentage (11.3%), such that on average they viewed close to 25 channels for the month.

That was almost twice the number of channels viewed on average by Asian-Americans (13.8), with Hispanic adults also watching slightly fewer than channels (17.6) than average.

The analysis shows that the number of channels available to viewers increased from May 2014 to May 2015, before decreasing in May 2016. Compared to May 2014, viewers watched a smaller percentage of channels available this past May across races and ethnicities; as a result, they watch about 1 less channel on average now every month than they did 2 years ago. This decline has been driven by Black adults, who watch close to 2 fewer channels per month now.

The report also notes that households with access to subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime tend to watch fewer channels. On average, adults with SVOD access watched 18.6 channels in May, 1.2 fewer than the overall average of 19.8.

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A previous report from Nielsen had shown that the number of channels watched by US adults had stagnated between 2008 and 2013 despite rising number of available channels.

This latest study indicates that the number of channels viewed tends to increase with age, a fairly unsurprising result given that older Americans watch much more traditional TV than younger adults.

Specifically, Americans averaged the following number of channels viewed:

  • 50+: 22.4 channels (Black – 28.6; Hispanic – 20.6; Asian American – 15.3);
  • 35-49: 19.9 channels (Black – 24.6; Hispanic – 18.3; Asian American – 14.3);
  • 18-34: 14.9 channels (Black – 18.2; Hispanic – 14.4; Asian American – 11.1);
  • 12-17: 11.4 channels (Black – 15.3; Hispanic – 10.7; Asian American – 9.1); and
  • 2-11: 12.8 channels (Black – 15.6; Hispanic – 12.9; Asian American – 10.4);
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