Data Point: There Are Hundreds of TV Channels. People Watch 17 of Them. – Digits – WSJ.


In the 1979 song “Nobody Home,” Pink Floyd sang about 13 channels on the TV, nothing to watch. Today, people on average have access to nearly 200 channels, but they barely watch a tenth of them.

The data, provided by Nielsen and charted by Statista, show that people have more channels at their disposal today than ever. In 2013, there were an average 189 channels available to U.S. households, up from 179 the year before.

Still, the households viewed on average somewhere between 17 and 18 channels — and that was down slightly from the year before. In fact, the number of channels viewed plateaued at about 17 in 2008.

The Nielsen data is grist for opponents of cable-channel “bundling,” who argue people end up paying for channels they don’t want. And it spotlights the challenges that advertisers face in an increasingly fragmented media world.

The number of channels available to people has exploded over the years thanks to ever-beefier cable and satellite-TV packages. But broadcast and pay-TV channels aren’t the only options for viewers. People can watch videos on YouTube and Vevo, stream movies from NetflixNFLX +2.14%, iTunes and Amazon, peruse channel-like “apps” onAppleAAPL -0.42% TV or call up on-demand programming from any number of providers like ABC and ESPN.

The Nielsen data comes from the Advertising & Audiences report, which hasn’t been released yet.

– Brian R. Fitzgerald

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