Home > Research > Trend Analysis Reports >
Television Update and What it Means for Christian Ministry
In the average home in the U.S. and Canada no one watches any religious programming in a typical week. Religious TV is, literally, off the bottom of the chart of weekly TV consumption. What do people watch?

The TV is viewed by someone a total of 35 hours a week in the average home. This includes simultaneous hours in the 74% of households that have two or more sets. That total of 35 hours a week breaks out like this:

17% (11 hours) - Feature movies
16% (10.5 hours) - News (including "news magazine" shows like 60 Minutes)
14% (9 hours) - Situation comedies
10% (6.5 hours) - Talk shows and documentaries
9% (5.5 hours) - Prime time drama series
8% (5 hours) - Children's programs
6% (4 hours) - Sports events
3% (2 hours) - Variety shows (such as Tonight)
3% (2 hours) - Soap operas
1%  (less than a hour) - Game shows
11% (7 hours) - All others, including pay-per-view movies and sports, local cable access programs, home shopping, and religious programs; each of the 20-some categories here has less than a half percent of the total (or less than 20 minutes a week, cumulative total time).

News and information is the most widely consumed item among all that TV offers. Half of adults watch an evening newscast every day and 90% watch TV news at least once a month. Older adults are more likely to watch the news than are younger adults. Adults with a high school diploma or less are much more likely to get their news from TV, while those with a college education are more likely to balance TV with print news media. In fact, the more education a person has the less likely they are to watch TV at all.

TV technology is shifting viewer behavior. Nine out of ten homes have a VCR (41% have two or more) and the average home uses it about six hours a week-2 hours for recording and 4 hours for viewing. The majority of recordings are made while the TV set is not on (probably when no one is at home) and 15% are made of a channel not currently being viewed.

With cable and satellite TV systems, the average home now has access to 63 channels, but the average adult only views 10 or 11 of these each week and no more than 24 in a quarter. People are very selective about which channels they use, which is why TV channels devoted exclusively to religious programming touch only a small percentage of the total population and a channel devoted entirely to Adventist programming will touch only a very, very small fragment (less than one-tenth of one percent) of the population.

Half of television viewers zap commercials during the first six seconds. Virtually every home with a TV also has a remote control (97%). And, 60% of those who don't change the channel or mute the commercials leave the room during the commercial or do something else (such as read, cook or clean house). Men are more likely than women to switch channels as are viewers under 35 years of age. Spots that begin with a serious tone are most often zapped or ignored, while those that begin with humor are least often. What does that say about sermons? People are obviously practiced at thinking about something else if you don't keep their attention. 

Trend Analysis Report (2000) - Sources: TV Dimensions 2000 (18th annual study) by Media Dynamics and papers presented by Lee Weinblatt and John A. Hallward at the Advertising Research Foundation annual convention (March 2000).