WASHINGTON – Americans spend more time watching TV, listening to the radio, surfing the Internet and reading newspapers than anything else except breathing.
In fact, media use has risen every year since the start of the decade, helped by faster and easier ways to get information and entertainment, according to statistics in a new government report.
Next year, Americans are projected to spend more than 9 1/2 hours a day with the media, though hours spent doing two things at once, such as watching TV and using the Internet, are counted twice in the report.
"There are more TVs than people and there's a TV, in many houses, in every room," said Patricia McDonough, senior vice president at Nielsen Media Research. "For teenagers, being on the Internet and watching TV at the same time are not mutually exclusive."
Americans spend an average of 4 1/2 hours a day watching television, far more time than they spend on any other medium. Next come the radio and the Internet. Reading newspapers is fourth, passed this year by Internet use.
McDonough said an increasing variety of cable TV channels has cut into broadcast viewers, but it has helped increase overall viewership.
"Before, if you looked at kids' TV programming, it was on Saturday morning," McDonough said. "Now there is always targeted programming available for anyone in the household."
McDonough said she expects overall viewership to continue increasing as baby boomers get older. The oldest of the post-World War II generation turned 60 this year.
"People who are 50 watch TV more than people who are 20," McDonough said. "That will continue to drive this."
The data on media use are part of the Census Bureau's annual Statistical Abstract of the United States, a 999-page book of numbers quantifying just about every aspect of American life, to be released Friday. The Census Bureau assembles the statistics from government and private sources so researchers, academics and businesses can find them in one place.
Many of the media numbers are from the Communications Industry Forecast & Report by Veronis Suhler Stevenson, a private equity firm serving the media industry.
Next year, Americans are projected to spend an average of 3,518 hours using the media. That's up from 3,333 at the start of the decade.
The number of hours projected for next year in different categories:
— 1,555 hours watching television, up from 1,467 in 2000. The estimate includes 678 hours watching broadcast TV and 877 watching cable and satellite.
— 974 hours listening to the radio, up from 942 in 2000.
— 195 hours using the Internet, up from 104.
— 175 hours reading daily newspapers, down from 201.
— 122 hours reading magazines, down from 135.
— 106 hours reading books, down an hour.
— 86 hours playing video games, up from 64.
Many people use multiple electronic devices at once, increasing media consumption, said Leo Kivijarv, vice president of research at PQ Media, a research firm. Also, new technologies make it easier to use electronic devices just about anywhere, from wireless Internet in airports to iPods and DVD players in automobiles, he said.
"We're not limited to just watching and using media in the home, as we were the past," Kivijarv said.