We recently received this question: What was the number of U.S. households with television sets for each year from 1950 to 1955?

This data is from Historical Statistics of the United States, Millennial Edition Online, ed. Susan B. Carter, Scott Sigmund Gartner, et al., Cambridge University Press, 2006:

1950: 5,030,000
1951: 10,320,000
1952: 15,300,000
1953: 20,400,000
1954: 26,000,000
1955: 30,700,000 

Learned along the way:  Did you know that in 1975, 30,000 U.S. households had VCRs?  By 1981 that number had reached 3 million, and by 2000 it was nearly 86 million. 

JHU affiliates can access Historical Statistics of the United States at http://hsus.cambridge.org/HSUSWeb.  If you’re off campus, you’ll need to use the JHSecure VPN client.


2 thoughts on “Ask Your Librarian: TV Ownership in the Fifties

  1. The obvious follow-up question — how many DVD players during the 90s and the present decade?

    Andi responds…

    Somehow I knew that one was coming! Statistical Abstracts of the United States combines data for VCRs and DVDs; i.e., in 2001, VCR and DVD players were in 96.1 million U.S. households. The Motion Picture Association of America’s report “US Entertainment Industry: 2005 MPA Market Statistics” provides figures for U.S. households with DVD players ranging from 24.8 million in 2001 to 84 million in 2005. They cite Nielsen Media Research and Adams Media Research as the sources of these numbers. Yet another way to look at it can be found on the Consumer Electronics Association’s website: In 1997, factory sales of DVD players totaled 349,000 units. Less than one percent of U.S. households owned one. The following year the number of units sold jumped to 1,079,000, still only one percent of households. By 2004, seventy percent of U.S. households owned a DVD player. You can see more details on their site.

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