People in This State Watch 4 Hours, 22 Minutes of TV a Day

Television viewership across America has risen by most measures as people have been forced indoors. Their options for content have soared in the past few years as network TV channels and cable have been joined by over a dozen large streaming services, led in number of subscribers by Netflix and’s Prime.  New streaming services come online regularly. Among the most successful is Disney+. It has operated online for barely a year and already has over 30 million subscribers.

U.S. TV viewership has risen above three hours a day, up 17% from the previous year, according to Verizon Specials. The hours watched vary widely from state to state. At the top of the list, hours viewed in Mississippi reached four hours and 22 minutes. The research cannot point to any specific reason, which leaves analysts with anecdotal evidence that, nevertheless, shows some trends.

States with heavy TV viewership are largely in the South and in states that are poor as measured by income and poverty. They also tend to be states with low educational attainment. Mississippi is followed by Arkansas at four hours and 20 minutes, West Virginia at four hours and 18 minutes, Alabama at four hours and 16 minutes and Louisiana at four hours and seven minutes. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey does indeed show that most of these states have median household incomes of less than $50,000, compared to the national figure of close to $69,000.

The far end of the spectrum in terms of hours of TV watched are concentrated in the West and along the Pacific Coast. Alaska has the fewest hours watched at two hours and 38 minutes. It is followed by Utah at two hours and 54 minutes, Idaho at three hours and five minutes. Washinton State’s number is three hours and nine minutes. California’s is three hours and 13 minutes, and Oregon’s is three hours and 15 minutes. That puts all of them in the category of the 10 states where people watch the least TV per day.

The people in states that watch the least TV also tend to be affluent. This is particularly true of California, Alaska, Washington and Utah.

Other major trends in the study appear to be random. For example, viewership in Mississippi rose 25% year over previous year. Rhode Island had a 45% jump.

Taken as a whole, the data are interesting. Americans spend close to a third of their waking hours watching TV in some states. Perhaps that was because of last year’s presidential election. Perhaps it was people tuning into news about civil unrest. Or, most probably, it was due in large part to people who were forced to, or decided to, stay at home due to the pandemic.

Top 10 States: Most-Watched TV

StateAverageFavorite Genre
West Virginia4:18:36Sports
Rhode Island4:02:24Reality TV
Georgia3:49:48Stand-up comedy

Top 10 States: Least-Watched TV

StateAverageFavorite TV Genre
Alaska2:38:24Reality TV
Utah2:54:36Children’s TV series
Idaho3:05:24Children’s TV series
Washington3:09:36Stand-up comedy
New Mexico3:12:00Cartoons
Oregon3:15:00Cooking shows
Colorado3:16:48Reality TV

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