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Watching the U.S. fall apart ... in glorious hi-def

October 6, 2010 | Chris Payatagool
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By Allison Linn via Life Inc.

The economic downturn has definitely caused Americans to rethink their free-spending ways but hasn't completely curbed our appetite for the occasional big-ticket indulgence.

That's especially true when it comes to one of our country's favorite pastimes: watching television.

The percentage of homes with a large, flat-screen or high-definition television has risen steadily since over the past few years, according to data from the polling firm Nielsen.

Nearly 60 percent of American households had a high-definition television as of the second quarter of this year, up from around 37 percent at the beginning of 2008. That is despite a deep recession that officially lasted from 2007 to 2009 and left lingering economic pain.

Nearly half of all households had a flat-screen TV by mid-2010, up from around a quarter at the start of 2008.

At least 38 percent of homes have screens larger than 41 inches now, up from 24 percent in early 2008.

Maybe the economic doldrums have made us more impatient, too: 40 percent of households now have a DVR to record television shows, up from 27 percent at the start of 2008.

The data is based on Nielsen's quarterly telephone survey of technology habits.

The fact that Americans have been willing to splurge on a TV - but little else - isn't too surprising, considering how much time we spend in front of it.

A separate Nielsen survey found that Americans with access to a TV (almost all of them) spent an average of 158.5 hours a month watching the tube in the first three months of this year, or more than 5 hours a day. That's up by about two hours a month from a year earlier.

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