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More American homes now watch TV over the air exclusively

Watching television received with an over-the-air (OTA) antenna is not going away as fast as some might have predicted in this world of subscription services and IP delivered (OTT) content.

A new study states that and lower-income families—including minorities and younger consumers—are more likely to rely on free, OTA broadcasting and that 17.8 percent of U.S. households now rely exclusively on terrestrial transmitters to get their TV. This finding is consistent with recent trends of consumer “chord cutting” of their cable, satellite and Telco TV services in favor of free reception, due to the still struggling U.S. economy.

According to new research by industry analysts GfK Media, the number of Americans now relying only on over-the-air (OTA) television reception increased to almost 54 million. That’s up from 46 million just a year ago. The 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,” (conducted as part of Knowledge Netwok’s “Home Technology Monitor” research series, found that 17.8 percent of all U.S. households with TVs use over-the-air signals to watch TV programming; this compares with 15.0 percent 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, Senior Vice President, 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, six percent 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. Four percent of TV households had eliminated pay-TV service at some point in the past according to the 2011 study.

The survey also 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 percent of African-American households (up from 17 percent in 2011). In addition, 26 percent of Latino homes (23 percent in 2011) are broadcast only, a proportion that increases to 33 percent among homes in which Spanish is the language of choice, up from 27 percent in 2011. In all, minorities make up 44 percent of all broadcast-only homes, a four-point increase from 2011, when 40 percent of broadcast-only homes were minorities.

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

Lower-income households also trend towards broadcast-only television, with 26 percent 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 or greater rely exclusively on broadcast signals.

The Home Technology Monitor is an independent syndicated research service that tracks both ownership of over 100 media technology devices and services and the ways that people are using those devices in everyday life. The “2012 Ownership Survey and Trend Report” is based on a survey, fielded in March and April 2012 on Knowledge Network’s probability-recruited research panel, comprised of interviews with a total of - 3,207 households. The interviews included representative proportions of cell-phone-only, non-Internet and Spanish-speaking homes. The standard error range for a question asked of the total sample is approximately +/- 2 percent.

How the survey was conducted: According to the market research firm, GfK Media’s 2012 estimates used 2011 CPS annual estimates of 118.7 million total HHS, 2.6 persons per HH and GfK Media estimate of 98.0 percent of total HHs having a TV set. 2011 estimates used March 2011 Census CPS estimates of 119.1 million total HHs, 2.6 persons per HH; and KN estimate of 98.2 percent of total HHs having a TV set.