U.S. over-the-air TV viewership at 54 million


According to new research by GfK Media, the number of Americans now relying on over-the-air (OTA) television reception only increased to almost 54 million, up from 46 million just a year ago. The recently completed survey also found that the demographics of broadcast-only households skew towards younger adults, minorities and lower-income families.

The 2012 Ownership Survey and Trend Report, part of The Home Technology Monitor research series, found that 17.8% of all U.S. households with TVs use over-the-air signals to watch TV programming; this compares with 15.0% of homes reported as broadcast-only last year. Overall, GfK Media estimates that more than 20.7 million households representing 53.8 million consumers receive television exclusively through broadcast signals.

“As we’ve seen for the past few years, over-the-air households continue to make up a sizeable portion of the television viewing landscape,” said David Tice, SVP/ GfK Media. “Our research reveals that over-the-air broadcasting remains an important distribution platform of TV programming, and that in the past year the estimated number of broadcast-only TV households in the U.S. has grown significantly over what we’ve seen at least back to 2008.”

The survey found a small and growing number of homes have canceled pay-TV service at their current home. According to the 2012 study, 6% of TV households, which translates to 6.9 million TV households, eliminated pay-TV service in their current home at some point in the past and now rely only on over-the-air reception rather than pay-TV service. 4% of TV households had eliminated pay-TV service at some point in the past according to the 2011 study.

The survey found some minority groups are more dependent on broadcast reception than the general population, including 28% of Asian households (up from 25% in 2011) and 23% of African-American households (up from 17% in 2011). In addition, 26% of Latino homes (23% in 2011) are broadcast-only, a proportion that increases to 33% among homes in which Spanish is the language of choice, up from 27% in 2011. In all, minorities make up 44% of all broadcast-only homes, a four-point increase from 2011, when 40% of broadcast-only homes were minorities.

Homes headed by younger adults are also more likely to access TV programming exclusively through broadcast signals. 24% of homes (20% in 2011) with a head of household age 18-34 are broadcast only, compared with 17% of homes in which the head of household is 35-49, or 15% of homes in which the head of household is 50 years+.

Lower-income households also trend towards broadcast-only television, with 26% of homes with an annual income under $30,000 receiving TV signals solely over-the-air. In comparison, 11% of homes with incomes $75,000+ rely exclusively on broadcast signals.

RBR-TVBR observation: With more and more multicast networks adding up in market after market, the choices are becoming more and more competitive with pay TV. The economy is also an ongoing factor in all of this—along with online viewing via Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, etc.