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RF Shorts for April 21, 2014

Pay TV Subscriptions Decline; Off-Air Viewer Numbers Increase Paul Ausick, in an article on 24/7 Wall St., Pay TV Shows Troubling Subscriber Trends, reports "The number of subscribers to pay-TV services dropped by about 588,000 in 2013, but that trend is set to reverse itself between 2014 and 2019, growing from about 101 million subscribers to 103.2 million. The data come from a new report by research firm Strategy Analytics."

Ausick cites the usual reasons for the decline--younger people "cutting the cord" or never purchasing a pay-TV subscription. He asks. "What is making a comeback?" His answer: "The trusty roof-top antenna. Consumers can receive free over-the-air programming and pay for the Internet streaming. Home antenna use rose seven percent in 2013, according to Strategy Analytics, to 21.5 million households."

Note that this increase is far greater than minuscule predicted growth rate for pay TV subscribers during the next five years.

The transition to ATSC 3.0 could accelerate the growth in off-air viewership if it allows reception on more devices with smaller antennas. The problem for broadcasters will be figuring out how to retain those viewers that are just now discovering ATSC 1.0.

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Doug Lung

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.