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How Americans Spend Their Entertainment Budget

Many turn to Internet access for film, television shows

The average American spent $2,605 on entertainment in 2012, up from $2,504 in 2010, according to findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

White and non-Hispanic Americans spent 5.4 percent of their budget on entertainment, whereas African-Americans spent an average of 4 percent of their budget on entertainment. Latino or Hispanic Americans had the lowest entertainment spending, allocating only 1.8 percent of the budget to entertainment.

Of the many entertainment segments, digital and interactive media garner a greater share of the entertainment budget than print media. Typically, Americans spent the most on Internet access, television, movies and gaming.


Photo by Bryan Gosline via Wikimedia Commons

In 2012, the average American spent half of their leisure time or an average of 2.8 hours per day watching television, as reported by the BLS. Television-related expenses include cable or satellite television packages, online television streaming fees (such as Hulu Plus or Netflix) and flat screen televisions. Pay-TV subscriptions are projected to increase to a high of $92.9 billion in 2016, according to research from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Typically, Americans might pay for multiple television services, spending money on both a cable television package as part of their home entertainment/Internet access and purchasing a second streaming media option that is used for both home movie viewing and television watching.

Video games

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In 2009, video games took up a 9.3 percent share of the entertainment budget, according to research from Nielsen. While that number fell slightly in 2010 to 8.5 percent of the entertainment budget, the actual dollar expenditure remained even.

Americans did transfer their entertainment spending somewhat to out of home activities; however, Nielsen suggests some of the decreased expenditures here may be due to a simple screen shift. With the rise of smartphones, gamers can choose to play on their phone, try out the newest release of a top-grossing gaming franchise such as the latest Battlefield PC game on their tablet or laptop, or use a gaming console. Overall, this is projected to lead to more dollars spent on video games, split across different screen and gaming options.


Photo by Hashi via Wikimedia Commons

Whether renting movies (DVD or Blu-ray) at home, live streaming movies using a service such as Amazon Instant Video or Netflix or heading out to see a film, Americans spent more than $30 billion on movies in all forms. This number is projected to rise through 2016.

While Americans are spending less on DVDs and Blu-ray discs than in the past, they are going out to the movies more often. Ever-higher movie ticket prices at the box office also spell more dollars spent for films.


Photo by Official GDC via Flickr

The majority of Americans have at-home Internet access and many turn to it for entertainment. Americans are projected to spend $81.5 billion on online access and Internet peripherals by 2016, as noted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Online expenses include devices such as laptops, desktops and tablets, wireless routers, Internet packages (including cable, satellite, DSL and Google Fiber) and dual-use devices such as smartphones that can be used for home Internet access, gaming and other types of entertainment.

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