Over-the-air TV market continues to shrink

Free, over-the-air television viewing of broadcast TV signals are now watched by only 9 percent of the U.S. population — down from 16 percent in 2003, according to Nielsen, the major TV and radio rating service.

Eighty-five percent of U.S. consumers subscribe to pay TV, Nielsen reported, with digital cable having 52 percent and satellite 33 percent of the subscriptions. The new figures are in Nielsen’s “The Media Universe” report.

The decline in over-the-air broadcasting joined feature phones and VCRs as fading technologies. Nielsen said on a daily basis, viewers watch about six hours and 54 minutes of “traditional” TV, while the next most popular method of is viewing video over the Internet through a computer. Viewers watched video on computers 28 hours and 29 minutes each month.

About 289 million people own at least one television set, with the majority (119 million) owning four sets, Nielsen found. About 31 million own a single TV set. Seventy-five percent own an HDTV set and 86 percent own a DVD player, the report found.

The Nielsen numbers are certain to cause a dispute with the NAB, which has insisted the amount of over-the-air viewing is increasing in an era of cord-cutting. Last summer, the NAB produced a survey by Knowledge Networks citing about 18 percent as “broadcast exclusive” households. That total was 54 million Americans — up from 46 million in 2011.

Nielsen’s “The Media Universe” report is a summary of media usage in the second quarter of 2012 and is a consolidation of more than a dozen Nielsen reports issued throughout the year.