Technology hold-outs may reminisce over the days we huddled around one television to watch popular shows or sporting events. Are they so wrong? A new study suggests that although a slight majority of Americans feel that television creates a "common culture," more of us are shifting to alternative devices to view our favorite shows.
Sony Electronics released a study conducted by Nielson Research Wednesday, examining the most impactful TV moments in history. The 500-page plus report includes a section that discusses the viewing habits of the respondents.
According to the study, 57 percent believe that television creates "a common culture in America." Just look at the five most impactful TV moments of the past 50 years. The top moment being the September 11 tragedy, followed by Hurricane Katrina, the OJ Simpson verdict, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the death of Osama Bin Laden. It could be argued that those moments either brought Americans together or sparked contentious national debates.
Nielson measured "impact" by the number of people watching the event live, the number of people who knew exactly where they were when the event happened and the number of people who discussed it afterward.
"These findings corroborate Nielsen's premise that Americans across all demographics can point to certain, powerful televised events that define and contribute to our collective consciousness," said Paul Lindstrom, senior vice president at Nielsen in a press release.
What's surprising about the survey is the percentage of people who have shifted to alternatives to live TV. A whopping 51 percent of people said they watched TV on laptops, 49 percent said they used an Apple iPad, 37 percent used a tablet computer and 42 percent said they used video-enabled smartphones.(Watch the video, at left, to see some of the the easiest ways to watch TV through your computer.)
Video game consoles are also playing a larger role in home entertainment. The study shows 36 percent of those surveyed watch TV on a PlayStation 3, 33 percent use and Xbox 360 and 25 percent use a Nintendo Wii. These results correlate with a previous Nielson report in May that found 45 percent of homes had at least one video game console.
These numbers beg the question: Is cable TV dead?
It's complicated, but studies suggest the answer is no. While how we watch programming is continuing to shift, a majority of Americans are still using our TV sets. According to a May report by Nielson, the number of homes with HDTVs grew by more than 8 million to 80.2 million.
About 98 percent of people said they still watch TV on a traditional set. Although the results don't account for people who are hooking up TV sets to laptops, streaming devices or video game consoles, Americans are still looking to be entertained.
"It's safe to say that television's role in our lives and our culture is significant," Lindstrom said. "Beyond programming, beyond events, television has become an icon and a cultural beacon."