More Americans Have TVs in Their Homes Than Internet

2427204350_0ced1b5a44[1]A new report from Pew Research Center circulated yesterday with some surprising statistics.

According to their latest survey, which was conducted in April and May of 2013, around 15% of Americans don’t go online – either at home or elsewhere.

The report showed that the non-internet users were concentrated in the working class and the less-educated, but it also showed that 4% of the respondents who were college-educated don’t go online either (not even for work) and that around 4.6% of those earning more than $50k a year also don’t go online.

That’s an interesting statistic, but it’s not as surprising as another report I found today. I went looking for data which could put the 15% in to context, and I found that the latest estimates from Nielsen show a much higher penetration of TVs in American households:

The universe of U.S. television homes is growing—and so is the TV audience. According to Nielsen’s 2014 Advance National TV Household Universe Estimate (UE), there are 115.6 million TV homes in the U.S., up 1.2% from the 2012-2013 estimate of 114.2 million. Nielsen estimates that 294 million persons age 2 and older live in these TV homes, an increase of 1.6% from last year.

Something like 98% of Americans have a TV. Even if we assume this estimate is somewhat inaccurate, it still shows that TVs still have a higher penetration that internet.

I find it surprising. The internet can be a useful tool, but a TV is just a time sink. So I was surprised to learn that so many more Americans were wasting time and money on such a useless gadget than spending their time with something useful.

Frankly, I expected the results to go the other way. Why do you think it didn’t?

P.S. If you like data then you might want to read the info released with last year’s estimates (Mashable).

image by liewcf

Nate Hoffelder

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Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Elaine26 September, 2013

    My husband had our only TV for years but I finally broke down and got one for myself. The reason: we live in poor, battered Colorado Springs (when it’s not fire, it’s flood), and I got my own TV because I was tired of taking over my husband’s when a fresh disaster strikes. One of the local news stations goes to non-commercial coverage during disasters. It also comes in handy when we have guests.

  2. Logan Kennelly26 September, 2013

    The story appears to be “many people choose simple, cheap, leisure over complex, expensive tools”. Isn’t that obvious?

    Televisions encourage shared family experiences. The Internet doesn’t really offer that. TV is also much older and more a part of our culture. While many people recognize names like CBS, even most internet users couldn’t identify the search engine they use by brand (although I would guess that they recognize the name Google if mentioned).

    “People should read books, not go to the movies.” “People should communicate online rather than watch television.”

    These shock stories that people don’t sit down and rationally consider their own self interest are silly. I should think by now it’s obvious that motivations are very complex.

    But I feel like I’m falling into the pit of responding to easy eye-grab stories because the response is easy … which is probably the point of the article. 😛

  3. Syn26 September, 2013

    I would think a large chunk of those numbers would be seniors. My mom (78 yr old) looks at computers like they are the devil and will bite her if she touches it.

  4. Becki26 September, 2013

    I’m actually surprised the internet usage is that high. Many rural or mountainous areas still do not have reliable high speed internet access, and depend on public libraries or internet cafes/wi-fi spots to connect online. Some would argue that these people should use satellite internet providers, but that is too expensive for many. It does not surprise me that nearly all households have tvs.

    The more interesting question to me is, how many of those households with tvs still use cable, as compared to dish or online access?

  5. Chad Butler26 September, 2013

    I’m not all that surprised by the data. I’m actually probably more surprised by the Internet data by itself.

    I would suspect that there are quite a few of those people that would feel about the Internet as you do about TV – it is a huge time sink. That doesn’t make them right, but your thoughts are just as subjective.

    It costs very little to keep a TV since you need not be bound to cable, but Internet access in the home is an ongoing expense. And having a TV doesn’t mean you sit in front of it endlessly. Like the radio of days gone by, many people have a TV for obtaining news, especially local.

    So no, I’m not surprised.

  6. Puzzled26 September, 2013

    “but a TV is just a time sink”

    Exactly! Think about it. For many people, after a full day of thinking on the job, the last thing they want to do is spend more time thinking. This after all, is why beer was invented.

  7. Thomas26 September, 2013

    Isn’t most of what we do with computers or books “just a time sink?” It’s not like reading a novel is much different from watching a TV show.

    Besides, if you live in a tornado-prone area, you should probably keep a eye on that useless gadget, just in case.

  8. Olivier27 September, 2013

    My neighbour is 86. She doesn’t have the internet.

  9. William Ockham27 September, 2013

    Dude, seriously? You’ve never seen a graph like this:

    This one shows color TV, but even so, it’s been over 90% since BEFORE THE INTERNET WAS INVENTED! The only surprising thing is that you are surprised. How did you not know this?

    1. Nate Hoffelder27 September, 2013

      Personal blindspot. I’m living on the internet and I thought more people were too.

  10. Laurah28 September, 2013

    Part of the issue is exactly what Becki identified and what a large number of internet users don’t understand. There is still a huge rural population that just doesn’t have access available, and if it is available, it’s itty bitty low-speed bandwidth for crazy prices. Up until two years ago my parents were still using dial up. They’ve since switched to an AT&T aircard, which I’m pretty sure they way more for than they should.


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