"Zero-TV" households are discovering new ways to consume content

With the advent of new delivery technology, more viewers are discovering, even seeking out, new ways to receive content. The idea that everyone sits around the living room and watches appointment TV died years ago. Today, viewers want to be able to consume entertainment on many platforms, ranging from the 65in HDTV set in the living room to their smartphones.

To more closely examine viewing on these newer platforms, the audience measurement company Nielsen has begun looking more closely at a small portion of American homes now called “Zero-TV” households. These households do not fit Nielsen’s traditional definition of a TV household because they consume media in a wider variety of ways.

In 2007, fewer than 5 percent of viewers consumed entertainment on anything other than a television set. Only six years later, 2.5 times more households view programs on non-television devices.

Although the Zero-TV audience is still relatively small, it continues to increase. About 75 percent of these households still have a traditional TV set, but the majority (67 percent) get their content from “other devices.” Those devices include computers, Internet TVs, smartphones and tablets. Almost half (48 percent) get their TV content via subscription services. Some of those services include Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Aereo, Redbox, VUDU, iTunes and Apple TV. What is missing here is cable, satellite and Telco-delivered content.

The Zero-TV household tends to be young; almost half of them are younger than 35. Two other common traits: 85 percent of these viewers are non-Hispanic, and 81 percent have no children.

When the Zero-TV households were asked why they did not have wired cable or satellite service, about one-third of the survey respondents replied that those services were either too costly, or they simply weren’t interested. Only 18 percent said they had considered subscribing to traditional TV services.
The Nielsen report does indicate that some things have yet to change. Measured across the last four years, total consumption of entertainment by category has changed very little. In average time spent per person per day, appointment TV has fallen only five minutes, from 4 hours and 44 minutes in 2008 to 4 hours and 39 minutes last year.

Time shifting (DVR usage) has almost doubled, going from 14 minutes in 2008 to 25 minutes per day last year. Another significant trend is the aging of the high-consumption TV viewer. When it comes to watching television, the seniors win, watching an average of 48+ hours per week. The amount of time spent in front of the TV set falls rapidly with decreasing age. The 18- to 24-year-old demographic uses the TV set about half as much — 29 hours.

Why should broadcasters care?

With increased viewing options, consumers expect their content to be available on their schedules, on their devices. No longer can the local TV station rely exclusively on that RF signal to reach audiences. Think multiplatform, multiformat and multi-device.

Fortunately, there are plenty of vendors inside these pages to help you make the required equipment and workflow changes.

Brad Dick, editorial director