Nielsen: Broadcast-only TV households to slip below 10 percent

U.S. TV households this year will continue their migration away from OTA reception with fewer than 10 percent choosing to receive OTA television programming only, according to Nielsen's latest "Television Audience Report."

At 9 percent, Nielsen's forecast for 2010 is a record low for the category and is the latest in a series of declines. In 2008, the report said 12 percent received OTA TV. In 2009 — the year full-power TV broadcasters completed their transitions to DTV — 11 percent received television over the air.

The decline in broadcast-only households comes as government regulators have proposed recouping 120MHz of spectrum from TV broadcasters to meet the anticipated need for wireless Internet broadband connectivity.

While broadcast-only households are forecast to slip below 10 percent for the first time this year, the percentage of U.S. households subscribing to digital cable TV or DBS as their source of TV programming will grow. Households subscribing to digital cable will climb 8 percent from 2009 to 46 percent, and households with DBS subscriptions will grow 2 percent, up from 29 percent in 2009.

The report also forecasts the gap between the number of households with an HD tuner and HDTV display — referred to as "HDTV capable" in the report — and those actually receiving HD programming will shrink this year. This year, the gap will close to 3 percentage points compared to 5 percentage points in 2009.

Perhaps even more important is the significant growth in the percentage of households that receive HDTV. In 2010, the report forecasts households receiving HDTV will climb to 43 percent, up from 18 percent in 2009.