TV Ownership Down for the First Time in 20 Years in the USA


King of de Jungle
Mar 17, 2005

You probably feel way ahead of the curve if you're one of the trend-setting cord-cutters who dropped their TV and cable connection in favor of an online-streaming lifestyle with help from services like Hulu Plus and Netflix. But even though you might be the first in your neighborhood to cut ties with Comcast, you're in good company across America. TV ownership is down for the first time in 20 years.
Remember when Charlie Sheen had the number one show on television? Yeah, well there's only one thing to blame—and that's The Neilsen Company.

Neilsen produces viewership rankings and ratings for everything broadcast over the tube. As such, they also have a responsibility to calculate exactly how many TV sets exist in homes across America.

For the first time in 20 years, that number is smaller than the year before.

How much smaller?

Well, a huge majority of the population are still rocking TV sets at home, so it's not like TV has fallen off the face of the earth. But the number has made a slight shift from 98.9 percent down to 96.7 percent this year (approximately 1.2 million fewer homes) And Neilsen thinks they know why.

Remember when everyone made the switch to digital TV in 2009, causing everyone to run out and buy digital converter boxes for their old analog TV sets? Well Neilsen speculates that some low-income households never made the costly switch and chose instead to live without a television in the house.

But of course that's not the only reason. More and more people are dropping their televisions in favor of watching television and movies streamed through the web on their computers.

Neilsen suspects that the biggest group to make the set-to-web transition are young people who've grown up with computers. They're "opting not to buy TV sets when they graduate from college or enter the work force."

A Change is Gonna Come

If that last prediction's true, it means Nielsen is going to need to re-think the way they conduct polls of TV viewership as more web-generation kids grow into the adult workforce. They're already considering redefining "television household" to include internet TV viewers.

What do you think? Should web TV viewers be lumped in with broadcast viewers? Or should streaming TV be considered it's own genre, kind of like how digital downloads began to be tallied in the music industry?

Hmm, I wonder if the numbers will also decline in South Africa when the digital switch over comes?