Texas, California and Salt Lake Tops in Over-the-Air Reliance

Markets in Texas and southern California with high percentages of Hispanic and other minority residents are tops in the nation in their reliance on free over-the-air TV and are most likely to be affected by the DTV transition, according to a report by Consumers Union and the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights.

But for reasons the groups were unable to explain, Salt Lake City has the highest rate of reliance on free TV (among markets of more than 500,000 television households) with 23.2 percent of its nearly 875,000 households using antennas.

The other large markets with the top rates of over-the-air reliance: Houston (with 22.8 percent of its 2 million households watching free TV); Dallas-Fort Worth (22.4 percent), Fresno-Visalia, Calif. (21.5 percent) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (21.1 percent).

Three more Texas markets are among the 15 in the nation of any size with more than a 20 percent reliance on free TV: Harlingen-Weslaco-McAllen-Brownsville (32 percent), El Paso (29.3 percent) and Laredo (20.1 percent).

The Los Angeles market has the highest number of over-the-air-only viewers—950,000 out of its 5.6 million households.

The report is based on Nielsen data that finds 13.4 million households reliant on over-the-air TV nationwide. The groups releasing the report advocated more federal funds for DTV education and urged consumers to learn about the transition to find the best solution for their needs, and to apply early for the $40 government coupons toward digital converter boxes.

Consumers Union had previously released results of a December 2007 survey that found widespread confusion about the digital transition.

On the opposite end of the free-TV scale, West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Fla. (3.7 percent), New York (4.8 percent) and Hartford-New Haven, Conn. (5.4 percent) have the fewest over-the-air-reliant households among markets with more than 500,000 TV households.