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Television viewing levels has greatly changed over time since the mid 1980s to date. In this paper, we are going to examine how this has changed and suggest reasons for such changes having in mind that innovations in technology have had an impact on TV watching.

Emergence of TV viewing patterns

The first change for TV viewing patterns started in the 1980s due to technological innovations. Cable TV like HBO and Ted Turner's Superstation appeared. This made the number of channels available too viewers to increase. By 1990, most households had access to TV and in most cases more than one set, this led to a case where a family member could separate herself/himself to separately watch her/his program. This behavior led to many people watching TV in the 1990s than it was in the 1980s (Butler J. 2007).

Changes in viewing levels

Television viewing has decreased over the years from 1980s to the present. This is due to the availability of cable TV, the internet, video games, the iPod, Netflix and TiVo, although TV remains the main medium through which most people access visual entertainment and information. It is also used by a big number of advertisers to reach a large audience. Despite all these, overall TV viewership has declined as television viewing habits have changed rapidly.  


The internet has also evolved the levels of TV watching over the years. The number of household in the US with computers increased from 8.2 percent in 1984 to 56.5 percent in 2001 with over 50 percent of these households connected to the internet and this has been increasing over the years. The internet has impacted on the social life of TV viewers illustrating time-use perspective on the impact of the internet. In the 1980s, few people had access to the TV and therefore people watched more TV than they spent on the internet. The internet is a plastic technology having a wider range of uses than the TV. The internet can be used for playing online games, listening to music, developing photographs, reading, seeking dates and for social chatting. With the popularity and accessibility of the internet in the recent past, more and more people are using the internet than watching TV (Carey J.). A research by Retrivo showed that as the internet continues its popularity, more young adults (23%) under the age of 25 than before are watching television via the net as compared to only 8% of those over 25 years. The reports also found out that more men (at 17 percent) than women (only 9 percent) are likely to use the web for such services (Philips C. 2010).

There are also a different personal attributes and some precipitating events that will cause people to use the internet for different purposes. For example, unlike adults, young adults and teenagers spend more time on the internet on social sites. The use of the internet has been so popular that some analysts hypothesize that it will displace the TV or reduce its dominance in the American households. Hence, through the years there is greater reduction of TV viewing due to internet usage which is used for both news and entertainment purposes (Carey J.).        

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Nielsen Media Research on its 2006 report showed that Americans now watch an average of 4 hours 35 minutes of television daily. This is an increase of 3 more minutes from the 2005 statistics. In 2008, the report says that the average American is watching 151 hours of television per week which was an all time high from the previous years. The increase in television watching is part of a long-term trend, according to Nielsen. Therefore, the trend has been that Americans are spending more and more time watching TV. The reasons for this can be attributed to greater availability of TV sets in more households than they were in the 1980s or 1990s. In most of the homes, the average household has more TV sets than the number of people. Another factor that has contributed to this phenomenon is also the availability of cable TV. The number of cable channels has continued to increase over the years and thus keeping most people glued to their TV sets than before (Philips C. 2010).

According to this research by Nielsen, young people of today watch more video games than the traditional television sets. But the study brings out an interesting phenomenon; there's a dramatic shift in where the young people watch TV, they watch more TV on the web. According to a Pulse Report, 23 percent of people under the age of 25 years watch their TV contents on the web as compared to only 8 percent who are over the age of 25 percent watching TV online. The report says that this is because young people are tech savvy than the older generations although they are most likely to converge like their adults as they age. The 12-24 year olds are more connected to the internet and are likely to use the web than the old television viewing. But much of these are driven by the economic status and lifestyle choices. Another reason for the changes in TV viewing patterns by the young generation of today can be attributed to the fact that most teens go to colleges earlier or have a job thus they tend to have less time for watching television. Another argument is that these same cohorts age and settle down will watch more TV because they have more time, opportunity and financial ability (Philips C. 2010).

The same report highlights a longitudinal research that tracked changes in media use for ten years, from 1999 to 2009. It found out that total time spent on the media has increased and by over 2 hours. TV accounts for 4 hours 29 minutes but only 59 percent is watched live.   

Also contributing to the increase in television viewing is attributed o the increase in the number and availability of DVR devices which allows viewers to watch their favorite programs at their leisure times. This is more convenient to the viewers than watching the programs at the shows slated time slots. Thus the viewers tend to take more of their time watching these programs than they used to say in the 1980s and 1990s. The device has helped to keep television well and alive. Statistics show that the use of the recorders has risen by 2007 to 2008 and about 73.9 million people use the recorders (Philips C. 2010).  

It is also amazing how or what used to be aired on TV have changed over the years, whatever used to be a taboo is now common place referred to as entertainment. The television content has surely changed over time. Example are cartoons that were watched in the 1980s, they were violent and contained overtones that were above the kids heads. The kids then laughed at the slapstick humor and the insinuations, this was mainly because they did not understand nor think about t at all. Sexually suggestive images were ignored because they were too subtle for the kids to pick. But something has changed; now the cartoons are outright about things. They use disrespectful language, negative images and ideas that encourage negative thoughts (Austin N. 2010).

For the sake of rating and drama, the emergences of reality TV shows are notorious for showing people acting in some ways unbecoming and tasteless behaviors. To keep viewers taste, most talk shows that were once good for guests' therapy are now just but a means to immorality. Many commercials aired in the 1980s had no or few suggestive messages but today they encourage gluttony, sexual immorality as well as disrespect. The viewers have also changed to suit to these outright shows (Austin N. 2010).

Another phenomenon is the stability in TV viewing. Stability in viewing is higher among children and adolescents. They later tend to have a long-term influence from their earlier viewing on later to their adulthood. The relative stability to television viewing is stronger in teenagers than in adults. Hence teenagers will most likely spend more time on TV if they are free than adults.   

The above analysis of TV viewing evolution raises number of questions on the future of television. The key among them are; do people want to interact with TVs and how. Although the answer to this question is yes, but again it depends per an individual, while some want to interact with the TV a lot some w3ant to interact less. The amount of viewing is also likely to vary with by the program types being aired and the time of the day. Another possible question is whether TV schedules will go away. Although it may happen except for live events, but the timing for such is unclear. Thus PVRs will act like video servers for most homes and they will make TV viewing schedules history (Carey J.).

The levels of TV viewing have gone major transformations since the 1980s up-to-date. TV watching was limited in the 1980s due to the limited number of sets that were available per each household. This was due to the prohibitive prices but as the prices reduced, more and more people afforded the TVs and thus increased the viewing. But as technology changed, the internet was innovated and this threatened TV viewing as most people especially young adults shifted to using the internet than spend their time on TV sets. The innovations also increased viewership, instead of waiting for some favorite scheduled programs, one can easily use a PVR to record the program which can be watched later hence increasing viewership. The TV contents have also changed over time. The 1980s broadcast was more conservative than today's. Vulgar and obscene languages are easily used in the name of entertainment but in reality trying to woo listeners. It is a wait and see how further TV will evolve in the future.

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