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TV Ownership Drops for First Time in 20 Years

TV Ownership Drops for First Time in 20 Years

Brian Stelter at The New York Times reports that “The Nielsen Company will tell television networks and advertisers on Tuesday that 96.7 percent of American households now own sets, down from 98.9 percent previously.” This is the first time in 20 years, that TV ownership has dropped in America. A down economy is definitely one reason, but you can’t discount the surge in connected devices replacing the ordinary “boob tube.” In 2009, we had a nationwide transition to digital signals for TVs, and this was a moment where two things happened: lower-income families were unable to afford new TVs, while some consumers decided to stick with their computers for watching video content. At the end of the day, a monitor is a monitor, no matter if it transmits television broadcasts or a broadband connection. Therefore, the ease of connected devices clearly had a negative influence on the practice of buying new TV sets. From the article:

There are the tech-savvy Americans who once lived in a household with a television, but no longer do. These are either cord-cutters — a term that refers to people who stop paying for cable television — or people who never signed on for cable. Ms. McDonough suggested that these were younger Americans who were moving into new residences and deciding not to buy a TV for themselves, especially if they “don’t have the financial means to get one immediately.”

Nielsen has not yet assessed what proportion of the decline can be attributed to this behavior. But the decline in the percentage of homes with sets is sure to kick off another round of speculation about cord-cutting.

Sensitive to its clients’ concerns, Nielsen explains the trend this way in the report: “While Nielsen data demonstrates that consumers are viewing more video content across all platforms — rather than replacing one medium with another — a small subset of younger, urban consumers seem to be going without paid TV subscriptions for the time being. The long-term effects of this are still unclear, as it is undetermined if this is also an economic issue that will see these individuals entering the TV marketplace once they have the means, or the beginning of a larger shift to online viewing.”

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