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54 million Americans watching over-the-air exclusively, says report

The number of Americans relying exclusively on reception of over-the-air signals to watch TV increased by 8 million over the past year to 54 million, according to a report released this week by GfK Media.

The report, “The 2012 Ownership Survey and Trend Report,” which is part of The Home Technology Monitor research series, also found broadcast-only households tend to consist of younger adults, minorities and lower-income families. In all, 17.8 percent of U.S. households rely only on OTA signals for TV. Last year, the figure stood at 15 percent.

"As we've seen for the past few years, over-the-air households continue to make up a sizable portion of the television viewing landscape," said David Tice, senior VP, 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."

According to the research, a small but growing number of homes have cancelled pay-TV service at their current home. The 2012 study found 6 percent of TV households, some 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.

Some minority groups are more dependent on broadcast reception than the general population, the survey found. The breakdown by minority group of OTA exclusive reception revealed:

• 28 percent of Asian households only received over-the-air television (up from 25 percent in 2011);

• 23 percent of African-American households (up from 17 percent in 2011);

• 26 percent of Latino homes (up from 23 percent in 2011);

• 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, according to the research.

Household headed by younger adults are also more likely to watch OTA exclusively at home. Twenty-four percent of homes (20 percent in 2011) with a head of household age 18-34 are broadcast only, compared to 17 percent of homes in which the head of household is age 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 of less than $30,000 receiving TV signals solely over-the-air. That compares to 11 percent of homes with incomes $75,000 or greater rely exclusively on broadcast signals.