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Cable TV Penetration Persists at 21-Year Low

NEW YORK: A record number of American TV households are receiving video programming via an alternate delivery system, mostly via direct broadcast satellite, according to an analysis of Nielsen Media Research data for May 2011 by the Television Bureau of Advertising. Wired-cable penetration persists at a 21-year low.

According to Nielsen NTI data, national ADS penetration hit 30.9 percent last month, an all-time high, up from 30.3 percent in May 2010. Wired-cable penetration, on the other hand, declined to 60.6 percent in May 2011 from 61.1 percent in May 2010—the last time wired-cable penetration had been any lower was in November 1989.

“It would appear that the cut-the-cord phenomenon is real, and that has implications for the advertising community,” said Steve Lanzano, president of the TVB. “Advertisers who buy cable locally need to know that local wired cable systems’ ability to deliver commercials continues to erode. In fact, in quite a few markets, a majority of those paying for video programming are now getting that programming via ADS rather than from a wired-cable system. Local cable commercials are not seen in ADS homes, and so local advertisers need to deduct the ADS percentage of the audience if they are included in the cable systems’ submissions.”

In November 2003 Nielsen Media Research began making available hard-wired local cable numbers and excluding ADS homes via its Total Viewing Sources DVD. But some third-party processors are still adjusting their software products to use the DVD and the printed Nielsen books do not break out the numbers separately, so some advertisers still need to make ADS deductions manually, the TVB said.