Broadcast TV viewers are spending more time with the drama found in sports, reality and hourlong scripted series, and less time with sitcoms and news, according to a Nielsen report tracking viewing trends in the past five years.

Nielsen’s survey of English-lingo broadcast TV viewing in the 2009-10 season confirmed what is already taken as gospel in the biz: Hourlong scripted dramas rule the roost in primetime for the Big Four and CW.

Drama skeins accounted for 41% of viewing on ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and CW in 2009-10, up from 40% in the 2004-05 season. Variety/reality programs comprised the next biggest chunk at 24%, up from 21% in 2004-05, followed by sports (12%, up from 8%), sitcoms (9%, down from 11%) and news/docu fare (3%, down from 5%).

The average American watched 35 hours and 34 minutes of TV a week last season. Kids ages 2-11 averaged 25:48 hours of tube time. As usual, adults older than 65 were the most avid couch potatoes, taking in 48:54 hours a week. Of the nation’s 115.9 million TV households, 30.9% have four or more TV sets; three sets are found in 24.4% of homes and 28.4% have two sets.

The balance of power between broadcast and cable nets continues to shift. The broadcast nets accounted for 16.6% of U.S. TV ratings in 2009-10, compared with 18.3% in 2005-06, while ad-supported cable nets climbed to 18.6% of ratings, from 16.8% in 2005-06. (Bear in mind that the ad-supported cable category encompasses 40-plus channels compared to five for broadcast.) Premium cablers (HBO, Showtime and Starz) have held steady at 1.4%-1.5% of ratings over the same period.

Nielsen’s survey also underscores the dramatic rise in DVR use in the past few years. As of July, 37.3% of TV households have DVRs, up from 1.2% in January 2006. But the majority (71%) of DVR homes still have only one such device; 24% have two and only 5% have three or more. Most DVR viewers get their service through their cable or satellite set-top box; only 3% have a stand-alone DVR unit perched on top of the TV set.

Viewers 45 and older remain the most eager to time-shift their TV viewing. The 45-plus crowd makes up 37% of DVR viewing, up from 28% in 2006.

The availability of high definition TV has also skyrocketed in the past three years, ever since the feds gave it a push by mandating that broadcast stations transition to all-digital telecasting in June 2009. In July, 54.2% of TV households were able to receive high-def TV, up from 10% in July 2007.

In keeping with the everything’s-bigger-in-Texas motto, the top 25 market with the highest percentage of HD-capable homes is Houston, with 64.9%. Portland, Ore., has the lowest penetration with just 50%.