TV Ownership in the US Drops for First Time in 20 Years

Posted by at 6:23 am on May 4, 2011

The number of TV owners in the US has dropped for the first time in two decades, Nielsen discovered in a study posted Tuesday. Although slight, ownership dropped from 98.9 percent in the last study to 96.7 percent in early 2011. Results had first shown signs of change in 2008 but hadn’t become as clear until this year, said the researchers.

Nielsen explained the drop as a balance between technology and economic class divisions. Some of those who either didn’t have a TV or had given theirs up were cord-cutters who had found Internet video enough to replace traditional TV. A newer generation not dependent on TV was also suspected of playing a role and was often deciding not to have a TV at all when they moved out.

Many others, however, were simply too poor to afford a TV in the wake of the late 2008 economic crash. A large portion of those giving up TV had incomes under $20,000 per year. While it’s unclear how many were students, others tended to be either in poverty-stricken or in rural areas where they either couldn’t maintain a TV or weren’t wealthy enough to get a satellite TV dish instead.

Cable providers have tried to maintain that only the economic factor was hurting subscriber numbers, which have begun to dip in the past year. Nielsen still considers the cord-cutting practice significant enough that it was considering including online viewership as part of its regular TV ratings. The move could trigger a major shift as it would put much greater weight on the importance of Internet viewership with services like Hulu, Netflix or iTunes and could lead to investing in shows that rate poorly on TV but fare much better online

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