Nielsen: U.S. TV ownership falls for first time in 20 years

“For the first time in 20 years, the number of homes in the United States with television sets has dropped,” Brian Stelter reports for The New York Times.

“The Nielsen Company, which takes TV set ownership into account when it produces ratings, will tell television networks and advertisers on Tuesday that 96.7 percent of American households now own sets, down from 98.9 percent previously,” Stelter reports. There are two reasons for the decline, according to Nielsen. One is poverty: some low-income households no longer own TV sets, most likely because they cannot afford new digital sets and antennas. The other is technological wizardry: young people who have grown up with laptops in their hands instead of remote controls are opting not to buy TV sets when they graduate from college or enter the work force, at least not at first. Instead, they are subsisting on a diet of television shows and movies from the Internet.”

Stelter reports, “That second reason is prompting Nielsen to think about a redefinition of the term ‘television household’ to include Internet video viewers… The economy was the reason cited by Nielsen when the percentage of homes with sets declined in 1992.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: And here we sit, watching “TV” on our iPad 2s.


  1. I think there is also a financial aspect: there really isn’t a lot of programming that people watch regularly on network, over-the-air TV. The big networks have seen their ratings steadily erode, while cable and satellite-only channels have been increasing in viewership. If you can’t afford monthly cable or DirecTV, there’s not much point to owning a nice HDTV, especially if your old analog TV won’t pick up signals anymore.

    There are also people who simply don’t watch TV anymore, especially since we have more single people who are older than ever before.

    1. “One is poverty: some low-income households no longer own TV sets, most likely because they cannot afford new digital sets and antennas.”

      Read the article

  2. Is this based on TV sales, or cable/satellite subscriptions? I pulled the plug. I own a TV but use a digital antenna, Netflix, Hulu and Apple TV to watch what I want to see. No cable/satellite bill for me!

  3. Music sales decline and Apple comes along with iTunes/iPod. Book sales decline and Apple comes along with iBooks. TV ownership drops and Apple comes along with…

  4. My Tv has been cold and dark for years. The overall level of commercialism and idiocy of the major broadcasters content turned me off. If we could rid this nation of the mindset and culture that the TV industry creates and propagates, society would be healthier within a short time.

  5. sounds like good news to me. Cable/Satellite providers are pricing themselves out of the market, offering bigger and bigger bundles when the customer really just wants to choose a few specific channels or programs.

    Absent of real data, i suspect there are few people who cannot afford TVs. They have never been cheaper. Those who “couldn’t afford” the analog – digital TV jump must have had extremely low IQs, because it was cheap and easy.

    More likely, it is value — that is, lack of value — offered in current TV programming that lost a lot of viewers in the jump to digital TV.

    the only downside is the large number of analog TV sets dumped in landfills rather than being recycled. Why not put those who can’t afford TV to work as recyclers?

    1. You’re right, the government even subsidized antennas and boxes for those who couldn’t afford the switch to digital. So that can’t be a reason for the decline in TV sets.

  6. We cancelled our cable when our daughter (only child) turned 3 because of the increasing vulgarity (mainly language at that time) and decline in the quality of programming – not every father is a bumbler depending on his wife to save the day; not every teenage girl is a sexually active skank.

    She was an early reader and was writing her own (admittedly immature) novels by the age of 11.

    She has Grade 9 in piano; writes plays and sings her own songs; had her own piano studio at 18 and plays worship piano in our church.

    The chances of any of the above happening to a tv addict would have been slim. Young minds need to have creative outlets:reading, painting, music etc; young bodies need physical exercise and social interaction.

    Our daughter in on her own and I still don’t have cable mainly because I have my own creative outlets, I am very selective as to what I will watch and it is just too expensive.

    Now, if I could select my own programming from the stream at a reasonable price… Nah! As the article suggests almost everything is available online, and cheaper.

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