189 Channels and Nothin’ On: Americans Watch Few Channels Despite Endless Choice

“I bought a bourgeois house in the Hollywood hills / With a truckload of hundred thousand dollar bills / Man came by to hook up my cable TV / We settled in for the night my baby and me / We switched ’round and ’round ’til half-past dawn / There was 189 channels and nothin’ on / 189 channels and nothin’ on / 189 channels and nothin’ on.”

The average American home now receives 189 channels, a record high in human history. Yet despite that plethora of choice for television viewing enjoyment, Nielsen found that American consumers still only tune in to an average of just 17 channels. And that number has remained the same since 2008.

Here’s a helpfully illustrative chart:

Nielsen wrote of its findings:

This data is significant in that it substantiates the notion that more content does not necessarily equate to more channel consumption. And that means quality is imperative—for both content creators and advertisers. So the best way to reach consumers in a world with myriad options is to be the best option.

It also might say something about the onset of digital media streaming services.

For those who don’t understand the lede graf, here’s Bruce Springsteen’s classically regrettable early-’90s jaunt about the teevee tubes:

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