Over-the-Air Sticking Around Amid Streaming Wars

A quarter of TV watchers use antennas, with nearly half starting to use them in the last three years, per Horowitz.
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NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y.—Disney+ is the shiny new toy for consumers and has seen a significant response in its first week, but some consumers are going old school, watching TV through over-the-air antennas.

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This comes via a report from Horowtiz Research, “OTA: The New TV Growth Story 2019,” which finds that 29% of TV content viewers 18 years and older own an antenna, while one in four (24%) actively use an antenna to get TV content on at least one of their sets. For many, the move to antenna is actually a recent phenomenon, with 44% of antenna users saying they got their first antenna within the past three years.

Horowitz found in its report that many of the stigmas of antenna users (older, not tech-savvy, lower-income) don't completely pan out. Half of antennas users are under 50, with 24% of them being between 18 and 34. The average household income is actually higher than non-antenna users. And even with an antenna, they tend to be heavier TV viewers and are more likely to be streamers than non-antenna users; 87% of antenna users stream compared to 75% of non-antenna users.

One reason that could account for the rise in antenna usage is the cord-cutting trend. Horowitz found 39% of streamers that got an antenna said it was a key because they wanted to cancel their cable/satellite service; 28% said it was a reason, but not the key reason.

Still, 60% of antenna users still have a traditional pay-TV service. MVPD subscribers use antennas to get specific channels not available through their cable/satellite service, like local channels or those in the middle of a carriage dispute. Other reasons are as a backup in case of an outage, to avoid having a cable box and on TVs that may not be wired for cable.

“Free or low-priced TV is more readily available to consumers than ever before,” said Adriana Waterston, Horowitz’s senior vice president of insights and strategy. “The number of OTA channels is increasing. And new technologies like OTA DVRs, OTA integration into connected TV platforms and the rollout of Next Gen TV standards will only serve to increase consumer awareness and accelerate usage of over-the-air content in the viewing diets of American viewers.”

Horowitz Research’s website has the full “OTA: The New TV Growth Story 2019” report.