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Rooms with a view: Multiple-set TV households provide an array of access and choice for content-hungry viewers

4 minute read | February 2022

In the 1985 film Back to the Future, there’s a line in one of the scenes that takes place in 1955 where Marty McFly tells his grandmother that his family has two TVs. As he’s referring to his life in 1985, his grandmother quickly dismisses him, saying that “nobody has two television sets.”

Fast forward to 2022 and multiple-set households are the norm. In fact, only 19% of U.S. homes have just one TV. Regardless of prevalence within the household, the TV remains a media mainstay, complementing the growing array of other devices that consumers use to access whatever content they choose—and on their schedules. Freed from a physical dial’s worth of content (another 1955 reference), today’s TVs have all the flexibility in the world when it comes to content, and American households are consistently evolving how they use their TV sets, and that usage varies from room to room.

Today, the average number of TVs in a U.S. home today is 2.3. And much like back in 1955, almost half of the TVs in U.S. homes today (44%) don’t rely on cable or satellite boxes for content (i.e., cord cutters). And given the depth of choice that consumers have access to, many households mix and match the content options rather than selecting one over another. In that way, it’s not unusual for a TV set in one room to access content via broadband connection while a TV in a different room accesses programming through a cable or satellite service. In fact, 51% of the TV sets in secondary bedrooms are used for streaming only.

The proliferation of devices and platforms has implications when we look at media consumption from room to room—and from household member to household member. Understanding personalized TV usage and consumption as choice increases provides advertisers and agencies with the insight they need to ensure meaningful engagement with end consumers at the point of consumption.

SVOD programming draws a crowd

As it has been for many years, the living room remains the media control center of any TV household, as it accounts for notably more share of total TV usage than any room in the house (58% among persons 2 and older).

What’s interesting, however, is that the living room isn’t always the co-viewing hub you’d expect, as 55% of content being viewed involves just a single viewer. For cable and syndicated programming, single-person TV viewing in the living room is even higher. In fact, co-viewing is only dominant in the living room when consumers are engaged with subscription video on-demand (SVOD) content.

Connected device usage permeates throughout the home

As connectivity and access to content permeates American households, complemented by the availability of relatively inexpensive television sets, smart TV ownership and internet-connected device (i.e. streaming sticks) usage are becoming increasingly common. And as the TV hub, the living room gets first dibs on the latest technology to facilitate access to the growing depth of over-the-top (OTT) content: nearly half of all smart TVs, 44% of game consoles and 40% of internet-connected devices are in the living room. When you aggregate internet-connected devices in primary and secondary bedrooms, however, the distribution (44%) is higher than it is in living rooms, highlighting the significance of TV connected usage throughout the household.

That connectivity throughout the house is directly linked to the way younger consumers use the TVs that aren’t in the living room. In secondary bedrooms, for example, 51% of consumers use internet-connected devices to engage with content. In basements, that percentage is 47%. In primary bedrooms, traditional TV programming accounts for 68% of use; among consumers 65 and older, that percentage rises to 88%.

Back in 1955, TV usage was very straightforward. It was scheduled, limited to a handful of channels and attracted audiences to a single set. Now “in the future,” usage couldn’t be more varied; specifically how audiences are using their TVs, and where within the house.

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