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Nielsen reports surge in US console ownership

Media information firm Nielsen has revealed new figures showing that the penetration rate of videogame consoles into TV-owning households in the US has risen by over 18 per cent in the last two years.

The company, which is best known for the Nielsen Ratings used to estimate the audience share of TV shows in the USA, has compiled a report called "The State of the Console" which reveals a number of key facts about the penetration and usage patterns of consoles.

The headline figure is that 41.1 per cent of all US TV households now own a videogame console, up from 35.2 per cent two years previously - an increase which is even more significant when the basic 1.6 per cent rise in the number of US TV households itself is considered.

In total, Nielsen estimates that there were 45.7 million households in the USA with a game console at the time of the study, which covers the fourth quarter of 2006. Of those, 4.4 million had connected their console to an online service - a figure which, given the timing of the report, does not include the built-in connectivity of the Wii and PS3 platforms.

Those 45.7 million households account for some 148.4 million people who have access to consoles at home - more than half (52.4 per cent, to be precise) of the TV-watching population of the USA. In fact, some 93.8 million people (a third of the population) used a videogame console in their home for at least a minute or more during the three months of the survey.

Unsurprisingly, the demographics of console ownership skewed along age and gender lines - with males between 12 and 17 being the group most likely to have access to a console at home, with 80 per cent penetration, while males between 18 and 34 recorded the second highest penetration level, at 67.7 per cent.

"The video game console has become a major player in the battle for the living room," according to Nielsen's vice president of wireless and interactive services, Jeff Herrmann. "In households across the country, consoles are successfully competing for consumers' time and attention; not simply as gaming platforms, but as multimedia hubs that also can deliver high quality digital movies and IPTV."

Nielsen's The State Of The Console report used data from the firm's National People Meter television household sample and other sources, and according to the firm, is the first in a series of analytic studies on trends in the videogames industry.

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Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.