Editorial: America tops the charts on media consumption

By Alyssa Sperrazza, News Editor

Long ago a person might person wait an entire week to see the next episode of a favorite show. But with the convenience and immediacy of streaming programs like Netflix and Amazon Prime, people have begun to binge-watch entire series; a practice that only increases the need to see more media content instantly instead of waiting for the next scheduled air date.

How has streaming impacted regular ol’ television shows? While some TV shows are hanging in there with a nightly episode per week, shows like ABC’s  “Once Upon a Time “ have suffered drops in viewers due to extended breaks (i.e. mid-season finales and hiatuses in between network distribution). People no longer want to wait for their shows, and we have now entered the era of binge watching.  A recent article in “Time” said there “is little consensus regarding how many hours of watching a TV show actually amounts to binging, but a recent Netflix survey concludes that most Americans define it as watching between two and six episodes in one sitting.”

The same article then went on to estimate that the average viewer binges about two hours a day. But that isn’t the only form of media digestion.

In addition to this, the average American watches four to five hours of television per day, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.    

Confirming that figure, the 2015 International Communications Market report, an annual survey by UK television company Ofcom, said “the average American watches 282 minutes of broadcast television a day—or four hours and 42 minutes.” And according to Nielsen’s National Television Household Universe Estimates, there are 118.4 million TV homes in the U.S. for the 2016-17 TV season. So Americans love their TV’s, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, until it’s compared on an international scale. America ranks number one in minutes of TV watched per day.  Coming in second is Australia, followed by Italy and Poland.

The number remains relatively close for those four countries, and only begins to noticeably dip with Brazil, France, Germany and the UK Jaqueline Howard, a CNN writer, recently estimated that in total, Americans spend more than ten hours a day to screen time.

So what created this media epidemic? 

Television has been popular since it’s founding, but the number of TVs bought and the number of minutes spent watching continues to increase.

The use of tablets has increased viewing time as well as time spent scrolling on social media. 58 percent of Americans now own a tablet and the “New York Times” reports that “time spent consuming media on tablets has increased 63 percent — to 31 minutes from 19 minutes a day (in 2014, the average was 12 minutes a day).”

The time that you spend consuming media, whether that’d be television shows or social media, continues to rise and so do the consequences, primarily involving pre-teens and teenagers. You hear it all the time: kids spend too much time on their phones or tablets, sitting inside watching TV and not enough time outside playing or moving.

It seems people (older people, industry execs and social experts) condemn young people for burying their face in a screen even as they share that condemnation online via a tablet or phone.

In short, media addiction is not just an issue for the young; it impacts most ages who use tech, and nd that increase in media tech causes a direct decrease on more traditional, educational pastimes.

“Inc. Magazine” just published an article illustrating how a person could read 200 books in a year by making one tiny change: cutting down on television/streaming. In order to read 200 books, it will take the average person 417 hours a year.

Many people might argue they do not have an extra 417 hours per year to read books.

Yet author Charles Chu points out that such a lofty reading goal is possible by cutting down the hours spent doing what Americans do best: watching TV.

Calculating it in hours, the single American spends 1,642 hours a year watching television.

That is almost four times the amount of hours one needs to read 200 books in a year.

So, hypothetically speaking, a person could read almost 800 books per year if television was cut out all together.  You could then read over 1,000 if you cut out social media as well.

These figures certainly debunk the mythology that we don’t have the time.

The time is there, but it is mindlessly occupied by scrolling Facebook, updating Snaptchat stories, posting on Instagram and watching “Friends” for the eighth time through.

Americans like to be number one and that mentality continues in the number of hours of television we watch.

Perhaps though, that mentality can be shifted towards better things.  Reading more books not only increases intelligence, but has also been proven to increase empathy, since readers are momentarily stepping into the characters’ lives.

So rather than being number one in a mindless activity, while pleasurable for the most part, perhaps Americans can shift their focus from the screens to the pages and see where it takes them.

Such a shift might lead to more worthy enterprises than finishing “Frasier” in a weekend.

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