Don’t worry, we only wasted a million years watching TV last quarter

Technology isn't a popularity contest. But, if it were, TVs would be winning. 

According to two new polls, not only are TVs the most owned technology in America with 96% of households owning a big-screen, but they’re also used 92% of the time to watch video content by adults aged 18 years or older – far more than we use our smartphones, tablets, PCs or laptops.

The first poll – the one about TV’s popularity – was conducted by the Consumer Technology Association, commonly referred to as the CTA. 

They found that while smartphone use is on the rise with eight out of 10 homes owning a cellphone, 96% of the people they interviewed had one or more TVs. In total, that number is around 308 million homes here in the States.

The report also found that smartphone ownership jumped Blu-ray/DVD players for the first time ever in 2017. The latter was only found in 70% of homes – down seven percentage points from the last time the survey was given out. 

One reason for the fall of Blu-ray/DVD players might be that smart TVs equipped with streaming services like Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu and others have, in many ways, removed the need for traditional physical media.

Glued to the tube

All great in their own way, one area where TVs, smartphones and PCs are not on par with one another is how much time we spend in front of them watching video content. 

According to a study conducted by Nielsen, adults aged 18 years or older spent a monstrous 509,196,299,668 gross minutes watching TV content in Q4 of 2016. 

That number is in addition to the 63,637,309,003 minutes spent streaming TV through a connected device – like a Roku Ultra, Amazon Fire TV or Google Chromecast – for a total of 572,833,608,671 minutes of well-wasted TV time. 

That’s compared to only 31,699,557,639 minutes on our PCs and only 10,923,019,061 minutes of video content on our phones and tablets. 

“What we found was that contrary to the popular narrative that smaller screens were taking away time from the TV glass, when we looked deeper we found that overall time spent viewing on the TV had the most minutes among every age or ethnic demographic looked at,” said Peter Katsingris, SVP Audience Insights, Nielsen. “In some cases the share of viewing was as much as 97%.”

Who’s to say what we could have done with the 1,089,866 collective years we spent in front of our TVs in the last three of 2016? Maybe we’d already be on Mars or have that first human clone, but hey, with shows as good as Game of Thrones and Westworld on TV, I’m not sure I even care to find out. 

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.