Americans have more TV channels than ever and still just watch 17.5

A new report from Nielsen shows Americans have more TV choices than ever and still watch on average 17 channels:

Americans have no shortage of options in every aspect of their lives. The proliferation of devices for consuming content has enabled more choices than most can count. But the “problem” of having too many options—including a growing expanse of content—doesn’t seem to be having an impact on our TV viewing preferences.

According to Nielsen’s forthcoming Advertising & Audiences Report, the average U.S. TV home now receives 189 TV channels—a record high and significant jump since 2008, when the average home received 129 channels. Despite this increase, however, consumers have consistently tuned in to an average of just 17 channels.

This finding might fit with research that shows giving people more choices in life doesn’t necessarily equate with happier outcomes. Sixty more channels may sound great but who has time for them or is interested in all of their content? It would also be interesting to look at the programming of these 60 new channels as I suspect many of them contain niche programming or may duplicate what is available elsewhere.

One way I think about this is how many DirecTV channel numbers I have memorized. With all of the possible channels, I still have to occasionally look up channel numbers – like last night when the Blackhawks-Wild game was on CNBC. At least DirecTV groups channels of common themes together so it is easier to flip around. I never did understand why Comcast put certain unrelated channels next to each other.

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