Despite growing competition from the Internet, iPods, cellphones and other new media, Americans are watching more television than ever, according to a report released Thursday by Nielsen Media Research.
The average amount of time that U.S. households had a television set on each day during the yearlong 2005-06 TV season that ended last week increased by three minutes from the year before, to a record of eight hours and 14 minutes, the report said.
The average amount of television watched by an individual viewer was also up by three minutes, to a record four hours and 35 minutes a day.
Viewers ages 12 to 17 watched 3% more television during a full day than they had the year before, Nielsen said. Younger children, ages 2 to 11, increased their viewing by 4%.
"A lot of people thought that as we entered the 21st century, there was only so much TV that people could watch," said Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University. "And others have said that because of new media, the TV era was somehow over. But TV viewership numbers are going up, and just because there's a revolutionary new challenge from things like YouTube and such, it doesn't mean the fusty old medium of a television set is disappearing. It's not going anywhere."
Although many observers have predicted that new media would erode television viewing habits, the trend has been toward greater amounts of time watching the tube during the last 10 years, Nielsen said.
In 1995-96, for example, the average household was tuned in to television for an average of seven hours and 15 minutes per day; that figure grew by nearly an hour during the 2005-06 survey period.