Articles Question TV's Future

This week I came across a number of articles questioning the future of TV. Mark Pattison, writing for the Catholic News Service, said in his article Is TV phasing out?, "The number of homes with TV sets in the United States is declining, even as the number of U.S. households keeps growing." He obtained this data from the Nielsen 2012 "Television Audience Report." He notes, however, that weekly TV usage has increased by one hour to 59 hours and 28 minutes. The article has more statistics. The number of households using only off-air TV has dropped to 10 percent, even though, as Pattison notes, "the digital-TV revolution has multiplied the number of channels available in most areas of the country with just the use of a simple antenna." He adds that the number of households with VCR players dipped to 57 percent, and, surprisingly, DVD players are projected to slip in U.S. households next year, from 88 to 85 percent. "This could be a sign that more Americans are counting on video-streaming services like Hulu and Netflix to get entertainment on their home computer." Nielsen did not include computer screen time in its computation of TV watching habits.

Jim Edwards has a more ominous headline for his Business Insider article The Death of Television May Be Just 5 Years Away. He says, "It could take as little as five years for television as we know it--broadcast and cable--to enter its final death throes, according to census statistics and a recent report from analysts at Credit Suisse. The culprit: "young people and new households who just aren't interested in signing up for paid cable and satellite TV service." He bases his conclusions on a report on TV media by Credit Suisse analyst Stefan Anninger that said 200,000 fewer subscribers will pay for TV services in 2012. The report said that only 16.9 percent of the 1.8 million new households formed last year signed up for pay-TV services. Edwards compares today's TV with the plain old telephone, explaining that in 2004 everyone had a plain old phone but by 2011 29.7 percent had wireless-only phone service. "The collapse of the telephone took just five years," he writes.

The one bright spot for broadcasters in this article is that he speaks primarily about pay TV--not free TV--even though he questions how long TV can last in the face of iPads, Internet TV, Web video and "other wireless video sources." He noted that analyst Anninger "sees a secular decline in TV in the future, unlinked from cyclical recessionary belt-tightening..." If broadcast TV can be one of those "other wireless video sources", then perhaps it has more than five years to live. If you read the article, you will notice that there is a wide range of comments on TV, many focusing on the quality of content, but some disagreeing with Jim Edwards' and Stefan Anninger's conclusions.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.