TV might be the most popular American pastime. On average, 55% of Americans spend one to four hours daily watching TV, and 22% watch four or more hours every day.

CivicScience tracking finds that hours watched have largely remained constant throughout 2022. What has changed noticeably this year is how people access TV. As of September, 51% of people have cut the cord on traditional cable or satellite services and transitioned to streaming-only services, up six percentage points since September 2021.

With the seismic shift to streaming, it’s important to track what the daily TV-watching routine looks like for most Americans. Here’s a snapshot of current TV habits, including a quick look at the TV ad space. 

How Americans Watch TV

The busiest viewing time? Many people sit down to watch TV in the evening. Nighttime is the second-most popular time slot to watch the tube.

Solo or social? TV watching is slightly more likely to be a social activity. A total of 51% of TV watchers typically watch television with others, with watching with a spouse or partner being the most common. That said, a significant percentage (47%) normally watch TV alone.

TV habits naturally vary by life stage and household type – 19% of parents typically watch TV with children or family members, compared to just 8% of non-parents.

But age alone also matters. TV is more of a social pastime for young adults. More than 1-in-4 Gen Z adults often watch TV with other family members or roommates/friends. Those 55 and older are the most likely to watch TV alone.

Best place to watch? The majority of TV viewers watch television in their living room. The bedroom is the second most popular place to watch. And 14% of the TV-viewing population own and use a designated entertainment room.

TV or mobile device? With so many streaming options available, a television is no longer the main device for watching TV and movies. A TV set remains the most popular viewing device, but smartphones, computers, and tablets are all alternative ways that people watch.

It’s clear that a portion of TV set users are also regularly watching television and movies on a second digital device, in addition to a TV set. For example, 1-in-5 U.S. adults who watch TV on a set also regularly watch on their smartphones.

How Do People Respond to TV Ads?

On the surface, TV appears to have a huge reach when it comes to advertising. Respondents say they are more likely to pay attention to TV ads compared to ads on any other medium, with online ads a close second. 

A number of major streaming providers are diversifying their offerings with lower-cost, ad-supported versions of their apps, such as Disney+ and Netflix. When it comes to streamers, a total of 71% are likely using streaming platforms that include ads, outweighing those using ad-free platforms.

However, recent survey results show that most people will avoid ads if possible – 60% of TV-viewing survey respondents say they don’t watch ads on TV when they come on, and 18% say they rarely or never see ads (if they exclusively subscribe to ad-free streaming services, use DVR, etc.). That leaves under one-quarter of adults who say they watch ads.

What are most people doing when ads play? Survey results find the majority of viewers (60%) tend to double-time with a separate digital device to post on social media, use apps, or text/email while watching shows or movies on TV.

The incredibly diverse state of TV-viewing today in America (largely resulting from the shift to streaming platforms) means that viewers have more options than ever, including how they access TV, what devices they use, when they watch their favorite shows, and how they react to ads. CivicScience will continue closely monitoring this rapidly developing arena – stay tuned.