In This Decade, Every Room Is A Screening Room TV viewership is up 20 percent — and Americans have grown increasingly addicted to a whole range of new screen sizes, from pocket game systems to smart phones. At any given moment of the day, 1.6 million people in the United States are using a video game console, according to Nielsen.
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In This Decade, Every Room Is A Screening Room

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In This Decade, Every Room Is A Screening Room

In This Decade, Every Room Is A Screening Room

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep, with a scorecard, of sorts, on this final day of the decade. Renee Montagne is away on vacation. Linda Wertheimer, who was with us earlier in the week, is away. Carl Kasell has a chance to sleep in this morning after his final newscast yesterday. He had a big good-bye party here in Washington. They presented him with a pair of pajamas. Many people are with you on this New Year's Eve, among them Claudette Lindsay-Habermann, our director, Brian Jarboe, our engineer, Many other people around the world - Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, recovering from Typhoid fever, is on the air from Kabul today.

Here's one major development in the decade now ending: Americans showed how very loyal we are. Even with all the changes in phones and computers, we refused to be distracted from the TV. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Americans have a lot of screens.

Unidentified Woman #1: Oh, too many. I have my computer screen, my BlackBerry screen.

Unidentified Man #1: My iPhone.

Unidentified Woman #2: Two, three, four, five...

Unidentified Man #2: The GPS, which is awesome.

Unidentified Woman #3: My Kindle screen.

Unidentified Woman #2: Six.

Unidentified Man #3: As I speak to you, I feel a tremendous pull to check my Twitter feed.

BLAIR: As irresistible as these fancy new screens are, Americans are most loyal to the one that's been around the longest: TV. In fact, we're watching more of it than ever - 20 percent more, says Pat McDonough, an executive at Nielsen.

Now, you might think that's because today, we can watch our favorite shows on all these new devices. Nope.

Ms. PAT MCDONOUGH (Senior vice president, The Nielsen Company): Ninety-eight, 99 percent of our video consumption is still the American television.

BLAIR: What we're watching has changed. In 1999, the number-one show was "E.R.," starring George Clooney.

(Soundbite of TV show, "E.R.")

Mr. GEORGE CLOONEY (As Doug Ross): It looks like we're going to be able to provide that pain medication we talked about.

BLAIR: Today...

(Soundbite of TV show, "American Idol")

Mr. RYAN SEACREST: Here they are, Kris and Adam.

BLAIR: "American Idol" is one of five reality shows in the Top 20. In 1999, there weren't any. This was also the decade that saw the rise of cable TV. Today, 90 percent of homes subscribe to cable or satellite. That's up from 77 percent in 1999. And with hits like "The Daily Show," "The Sopranos" and "Monday Night Football" on ESPN, cable is giving the broadcast networks a run for their money.

(Soundbite of TV show, "Monk")

Mr. TONY SHALHOUB (As Adrian Monk): I'm here because you killed my wife.

BLAIR: Just recently, the eccentric detective show Monk on the USA Network easily beat out the broadcast networks in the ratings.

Another notable change this decade is how we watch. Ten years ago, we pretty much had to take our TV sitting down. But today, we can talk back.

Unidentified Man #4: Get a Bravo ringtone or wallpaper by texting your vote 1, 2 or 3 to 27286.

BLAIR: Interactivity is an expectation today, and James Poniewozik loves that. He's a TV critic for Time magazine.

Mr. JAMES PONIEWOZIK (TV Critic, Time): It's fantastic to me that I can now write something and I post it on my blog, and 10 minutes later I'm having an intelligent discussion with a reader. Or I post a link to that post or an article on Twitter - two minutes later, I'm having a great little back-and-forth with several people.

BLAIR: And all it really takes is a cell phone.

Mr. JUAN TORNOE (Consultant): I don't see it as a screen, but a window to the world, really.

BLAIR: Juan Tornoe is a consultant who studies the Latino market in the U.S. He says cell phone usage among Latinos has exploded.

Mr. TORNOE: You not only are connected with your family and friends, you get access to information. You get to send and receive email. You get to participate in social media, listen to music, you name it.

BLAIR: Another screen that has soared in popularity this decade is the video game.

(Soundbite of shooting)

BLAIR: Get this. at any given moment of the day, 1.6 million people in the U.S. are using a video game console, according to Nielsen. People like Vicky Ellenburg, a first-grade teacher in Birmingham, Alabama. She says in 1999, she had just one computer at home.

Ms. VICKY ELLENBURG (First-grade teacher): I played solitaire.

BLAIR: Today, she plays "Rock Band" with her grandsons on her Wii.

(Soundbite of song, "In Bloom")

Ms. ELLENBURG: We actually stayed up until midnight until Wal-Mart got them in, and then we played it until four in the morning.

We got more than 25 - 28. We got 28.

BLAIR: But the idea of playing on a screen after a long day of working on a screen makes Jessica Valenti shudder.

Ms. JESSICA VALENTI (Blogger): Any free time we have, we're, you know, outside playing with the dog.

BLAIR: Valenti runs the blog So the computer is her livelihood. She's an example of another trend this decade: the impact of screen time on relationships. Valenti and her husband both spend a lot of time working online, and that got in the way of their marriage.

Ms. VALENTI: So often we'd find ourselves, you know, with our laptops open from seven in the morning until midnight, one a.m., even if we were doing other things. Even if we were watching a movie together or, you know, sometimes, sadly, even eating. You know, I think we both recognized that that's just not a really present way to be with each other.

BLAIR: So to preserve their union, they now have a rule: By 8 p.m., the laptops must be shut down and the cell phones turned off. Her escape? TV.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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