DTV Transition Knocks Down TV Penetration

NEW YORK: The digital transition put a dent in TV penetration in the United States. TV set ownership will drop for the first time in nearly 20 years, if Nielsen’s preliminary 2012 count is on the nose. Nielsen is projecting there will be a total of 114.7 million U.S. TV households next year, down from 115.9 million this year. The figure represents the first integration of 2010 U.S. census numbers.

Nielsen says the drop reflects aging baby boomers and more ethnic diversity, as well as the digital transition effect. After the June 2009 DTV transition, most analog TV sets were rendered obsolete, in the absence of a signal converter. Nielsen notes that TV penetration dipped after the transition and “did not rebound over time.”

The bottom line is, fewer U.S. homes have a TV set. TV penetration will have fallen from 98.9 percent to 96.7 percent. The last time there was a decline in TV homes was 1992, after Nielsen adjusted for the 1990 census. Nielsen said economics also played a role in the numbers. TV penetration started declining just after the transition, during the second quarter of 2009. Lower-income, rural homes were “particularly affected,” the firm said.

Over-the-top video is another factor. While more people are watching video on a variety of platforms, a “small subset of younger, urban consumers” are doing without cable and satellite subscriptions. Whether or not it’s an economic issue remains to be seen, Nielsen said.

“Some consumers are clearly being driven by the economy to make choices on the media devices they purchase,” said Pat McDonough of Nielsen. “Others are expanding their equipment to add more audio/video devices to their home. Still others may be deferring a TV purchase or replacing their TV with a computer,”

Nielsen said it will release its adjusted local-market figures in last August. The TV-penetration count is based on census data, state government and U.S. Postal Service information, and Nielsen’s own data.

-- Television Broadcast