Study Finds Americans Watching TV Where They Want to (Even in the Bathroom)

A new report by Nielsen, the global information company that specializes in media studies, found that Americans are making their own schedules when it comes to television consumption. Considering the recent rise in popularity of internet streaming services and the lingering presence of DVR consoles, that’s not particularly surprising. What might surprise you, though, is where we’re doing our watching. The report, released Monday, said it’s become commonplace for people to carry their viewing habits over into the bathroom.

But is it really that strange? Looking at the numbers, the trend begins to make a bit more sense.

The average American consumer owns four electronic devices, with high-definition TVs, computers with internet connections and smartphones being the most commonly owned. Digital video recorders and gaming consoles were owned by about half. Think about it this way: Just because Americans are watching TVs in their bathrooms doesn’t actually mean they’re doing it on a television set.

Or they could be, as the study also found that 84% of smartphone and tablet owners enjoy using their mobile devices as “second screens” while watching TV normally. We could be entering an entirely new age, one where dual-screen bathroom television viewing has become just about as common as casually updating our Facebook statuses.

Nielsen also found that 40% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 use social media while in the bathroom as well. So if the young folks are all Twittering while they’re doing their business, it’s not that much of a stretch to imagine people of varying ages watching their favorite shows online via a tablet or a smartphone while on the John, either.

All of this information comes despite recent worries that TV had slipped below internet-based viewing in terms of popularity, which the study proved that it had not. TV is still one of the central vehicles for media consumption, and sports are still as big as ever (inspiring 400 million tweets last year alone). Dramas are drawing in serious numbers, too. Last year, AMC’s <em>Breaking Bad</em> generated a staggering 6 million tweets during its run, while The Walking Dead generated just under 5 million. F/X’s American Horror Story: Coven raked in nearly 3 million.

Knowing that kind of data leads to another important question for the media age: Will TV’s impact be measured in forms other than actual viewership in the future? If Breaking Bad can inspire 6 million tweets, is that more impressive than the actual viewership numbers it received during its first run on the cable channel? After all, Nielsen found that live viewing in 2013 was set at 134 hours per month, which is three hours fewer than it was in 2012.

Furthermore, a typical consumer now spends 60 hours a week consuming a multitude of media via a number of different platforms — including streaming services like Netflix, social media sites like Facebook and even mobile-based games like Candy Crush. That’s consistent with another finding from the study that states smartphone owners use apps 86% of the time versus the mobile web.

So, it looks like TV is not dead, nor is it presently in danger of dying at all. Users have just found other, more convenient ways of enjoying it — especially in the bathroom.


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