Deborah D. McAdams /
McAdams On: Even More Fun With Numbers
CALCULATING -- Numbers don’t lie, they just lay
there while we apply all sorts of meaning to them. So here’s some fun numbers
from this week...
While TVs made of Saran Wrap were rolled out at International CES, the world’s
largest incubator of hard, plastic waste, BBC
News reported that more than 13,000 households in the United
Kingdom are using black-and-white TVs. London leads the way with 2,715. It
could be due to a license to watch black-and-white TV costing a third of what a
color license costs. Or, as one official said, “There will always be a small
number of users who prefer monochrome images, don’t want to throw away a working
piece of technology or collect old TV sets.”
The figure represents a fraction of a percent of the 25 million TV licenses in
force, and roughly correlates with the average number of people who are
entirely color blind.
Across the pond, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission released the
current total number of broadcast TV and radio stations licensed nationwide.
(Stations are licensed here, as opposed to viewers in the U.K.) As of Dec. 31,
2012, there were 15,196 AM, FM and public radio stations, and 8,390 full-power,
low-power, Class A and translator TV stations—reaching nearly the entire
population of the United States, which clocked in at more than 315.1 million as
of 12:41 a.m. EST, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Of those 315.1 million people, a fraction of a percent—roughly equal to the
portion who are color blind—will fly on a commercial flight in 24-hour period,
figures from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics indicate.
This fraction of one percent of the population is being inconvenienced by the
remaining 99.9-plus, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski declared at the
Consumptive Electronics Saturnalia in Las Vegas.
The good chairman said that slow Wi-Fi at airports was simply unacceptable, according
to a slightly exaggerated interpretation of on-site coverage. TWICE’s Joseph
Palenchar reported that the chairman, who likely did not
take the Megabus to Vegas, said more spectrum would “relieve congestion and
improve Wi-Fi speeds at conferences, airports and ultimately peoples’ homes.”
This additional spectrum is supposed to come from sharing arrangements with
government agencies such as the Department of Defense, which had 24,000 files
stolen through wired networks in 2011. Fortunately, Wi-Fi is super-duper
secure, so that won’t be a problem with shared spectrum.
Elsewhere at the Consuming Energy Shingdig, lots of really huge TV sets were introduced.
Sharp rolled out what was described by show organizers as “the largest LED TV
on the planet,” a 90-inch Aquos eyeball incinerator. It can be had for $11,000; same as a 2012 Nissan Versa, and a
relative deal compared to the 84-inch 4K LCD Sony rolled out earlier this year
As set makers come close to exceeding the wall size of the average American
living room, Sony is progressing toward TV wall covering with really, really
thin TVs in the form of organic light-emitting diode displays. Sony is not
giving up on OLEDs despite an industrywide production yield of around 17
percent, a source told Gary Arlen, intrepid reporter. Sony showed a 56-inch 4K OLED display, literally inching out
55-inch models from Samsung and LG, both of which were merely HD, a paltry
one-fourth of the resolution of 4KTV, also kind of known as “Ultra HD,” but not
Meanwhile, precisely zero programming
distributors are pumping out anything in 4K, and more than half of U.S. households with HDTV sets watched primetime
in finger-paint fuzzy standard definition, according to Nielsen. Broadcasters alone offer free,
unadulterated HD content, while pay TV operators charge a premium for something
like it. Yet even more numbers suggest both are on the decline.
Pay TV peaked two years ago, paidContent tells us with data from The
Diffusion Group. Subscribership is forecast to fall from 100.9 million last
year to 95 million by 2017, a difference of 5.9 million, or 1.3 million more
than Cox Communications, the fifth largest MSO in the country according to data
gathered by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.
Broadcast TV fared no better in graphic from Nielsen this week. The illustration says over-the-air TV “device
ownership” fell to 9 percent last year from 16 percent in 2003. It is unclear,
however, if the number reflects a decline in reliance on broadcasting, or that
it’s virtually impossible to buy a “broadcast-only” TV set, and that 9 percent
of U.S. television households are sticking to their fat, chunky old cathode-ray
tubes. The one certainty about these numbers is that they are not black and