05.15.2005 08:00 AM
CEA says number of American homes depending on terrestrial TV is “low and shrinking”

To document charges that a decreasing number of American television viewers depend on terrestrial broadcasting, the Consumer Electronics Association last week released new over-the-air viewing statistics to Congress.

Following equally critical comments to the ATSC, CEA President Gary Shapiro told Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, that the number of Americans without pay TV is now less than 13 percent and is shrinking as cable and satellite penetration grows 3.6 percent annually.

Shapiro said his research shows that among consumers who have neither cable nor satellite, the decision not to subscribe is generally not made for economic reasons. Instead, these are primarily people who do not watch a great deal of TV.

Shapiro said the vast majority of Americans receive local and network feeds via cable and satellite (and soon via telephone line, cellular, wireless broadband and the Internet), and relatively few rely exclusively on an over-the-air antenna signal.

“If there is any doubt about this, consider the total lack of public outcry over the recent announcement that ‘Monday Night Football’ will be soon available only to satellite and cable households,” Shapiro noted.

Of the nearly 110 million American homes with at least one TV, the CEA found that 68 percent receive a cable signal and 22 percent receive a DBS signal. The research shows that roughly 3 percent receive both cable and DBS. Eighty-seven percent of American homes will have access to cable or satellite (and thus network and local feeds).

Broadcasters, Shapiro said, seek to make a large issue out of the unconnected analog TV sets in households that subscribe to satellite or cable TV. He said broadcasters would have people believe that sets are used extensively with antennas for watching over the air analog signals. He said primary viewing actually most often occurs on the TV that is connected to pay services. And more often, the disconnected TVs are shunted to a less used room and hooked up with a DVD, VCR, or video game player.

According to Shapiro, the CEA’s research shows these sets are used at least half the time for one of many alternate uses. As cable companies no longer have a monthly charge for additional outlets, the issue is irrelevant for the 68 percent of cable homes. With the analog cut off, he said, these homes will not be disenfranchised; rather, they will simply purchase a D-to-A converter to continue receiving a broadcast signal.

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