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Energy Administration uncovers falling population of US TV sets

The conclusion may already be “old” in the sense that much of this is based on 2015 data, but a reputable source in the US claims that TVs per household in the US are falling rapidly.

Well relatively rapidly. The US Energy Information Administration, which is really tracking this for the purposes of assessing national electricity demand, shows that its latest Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) shows that an average of 2.3 televisions were used in American homes in 2015, down from an average of 2.6 televisions per household in 2009. This is far closer to European levels than previously thought – typically the rule of thumb has been that US homes have 2.9 TVs, and European homes have 2.1, setting them almost a full TV apart.

The number of US homes with three or more TVs fell somewhat and there was a much larger share of households which said they do not use a TV at all. TVs and peripheral equipment such as set tops and DVRs and video game consoles account for about 6% of all electricity consumption in US homes. Of course, a fall in electricity per device is already built into the system with reducing power limits placed on TVs and all Consumer Electronics devices in all the advanced parts of the world. Much of this is delivered by circuitry being in smaller geometry – using less power, but the number of CE devices per home tends to rise, mostly since 2009 by the addition of tablets and smartphones.

Data from the 2015 RECS highlights the variability and trends in energy use across the nation’s more than 118 million single-family homes, apartments, and mobile homes. Entertainment and information devices, in particular, vary by age: younger households tend to have a lower concentration of TVs per person and a higher concentration of portable devices such as laptops and smart phones. Older households are more likely to have higher concentrations of desktop computers.

The RECS Survey captured 200 energy-related items from 5,600 homes and for the first time the 2015 survey included questions about tablets, smart thermostats, and LED lighting and used online and mail-in paper surveys instead of direct conversations. A microdata file with household-level data, which allows more detailed analysis is scheduled for release in April 2017.

As part of the RECS, EIA also collects energy billing data from utilities and other household energy suppliers. This data is used to estimate aggregate household energy consumption and expenditures, as well as to disaggregate household energy use into specific end-uses such as heating, cooling, water heating, and refrigeration. EIA plans to release these RECS Consumption and Expenditures estimates beginning early 2018.

The fall in TV sets per home tallies broadly with data which shows that more people are watching more and more video on smartphones, and since 2009 there has been a big spike in both laptop viewing, then subsequently tablet viewing, before the current generation of Phablet phones came out.

New moves by the US MNOs will not be apparent yet, but once zero rated video services become trusted, phone usage when viewing video will spike once more and shift outside the home.

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