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06.22.2005
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
About 34 million TV sets used for OTA view, says CEA study

Nearly 34 million of the 285 million television sets in use in the United States are used to view over-the-air television (OTA) programming, according to data released this month from the Consumer Electronics Association.

As the U.S. Senate moves forward on the SAVE LIVES Act of 2005, which, if enacted, will establish a date certain for shutoff of analog TV transmission in time to allow emergency first responders to use portions of the surrendered frequencies by Jan. 1, 2009, and the House moves toward legislative action in September to take up the matter, the number of OTA households takes on a high degree of importance.

Lawmakers and broadcasters alike do not wish to “disenfranchise” households that do not subscribe to a cable or satellite service from television reception. These households tend to be disproportionately made up of the poor, minority and elderly. As a result, the SAVE LIVES Act calls for government subsidized converter boxes to prevent DTV from making the sets in these households obsolete. House action is likely to include similar protection.

The CEA data provide a backdrop upon which subsidies and the larger issue of analog shutoff will play out. According to the association’s study, 33.6 million households, or 12 percent of all U.S. television households receive OTA exclusively.

The study also found that about 10 percent of all TVs in U.S. households are used exclusively for an activity other than viewing broadcast television programming, such as viewing DVDs or playing videogames. Further, 25 percent of households that rely only on OTA broadcasts to receive television programming have at least one TV in the home used exclusively for an activity other than viewing broadcast television.

CEA's calculations are based partially on information from Nielsen Media Research, which shows there are 109.7 million U.S. television households, each owning an average of 2.6 televisions. CEA employed the firm of Opinion Research and explored how each of the 285 million television sets is used. Other study findings include:

  • 5.2 million (three percent) of TVs in households subscribing to cable are not connected to cable service;
  • Of these, about 474,000 are used exclusively to view something other than television programming;
  • The remaining 4.7 million TVs (less than 3 percent) in these households are used for viewing OTA television;
  • More than 7 million (9.8 percent) of the 71 million TVs in satellite households are used for viewing OTA broadcasts;
  • 200,000 of the 3.46 million TVs in households subscribing to both cable and satellite are used for OTA viewing;
  • 65.7 million (60 percent) subscribe to cable;
  • 26 million (24 percent) subscribe to digital satellite;
  • 2.7 million (two percent) subscribe to both;
  • 2.1 million households (two percent) report that they do not subscribe to a pay TV service nor use an antenna to receive over-the-air television.

For more information, visit www.ce.org.

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