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Nielsen says less US homes have TV – viewing patterns more complex

Nielsen reckons that TV homes in the US will fall from just under 116 million to 114


Published: 5 May, 2011


Nielsen reckons that TV homes in the US will fall from just under 116 million to 114.7 million between 2011 and 2012 – which it says indicates an aging population and greater ethnic diversity.

This is based on what it calls its Household Universe Estimate affectionately known as the UE and says the 2012 UEs reflects a reduction in the percentage of US homes with a TV set down, to 96.7% from 98.9% a fall of 2.2% of US homes. Nielsen says that the last time there was such a decline was back in 1992, after Nielsen adjusted for the 1990 Census, so that was data accuracy related. Since then it has been growing significantly.

Potential influencing factors include the analog switch off in 2009, the economic climate and the complexity of the media marketplace by which it means the increase in the number of TV platforms there are – multi-screen video. All pretty obvious stuff.

TV penetration first dipped after the analog switch off; the permanence of this trend was acknowledged in 2010 after the number of TV households did not rebound over time. Belt-tightening and the cost of owning a TV has been a factor Nielsen says and adds that TV penetration first saw sustained decreases in second quarter 2009 when lower-income, rural homes were particularly affected.

Nielsen has data that it says proves consumers are viewing more video content across all platforms—rather than replacing one medium with another. However, a small subset of younger, urban consumers are going without paid TV subscriptions. Its these youngsters that confuse Nielsen, and it’s loathe to predict just what this means – Will they all pick up pay TV services later or will they shift online forever? Nielsen asks – it’s the latter in our view, but you won’t get Nielsen admitting to that.

“The media marketplace continues to evolve and become more complex. Some consumers are clearly being driven by the economy to make choices on the media devices they purchase. Others are expanding their equipment to add more audio/video devices to their home. Still others may be deferring a TV purchase or replacing their TV with a computer,” said Pat McDonough, Senior Vice President, Insights and Analysis, Nielsen.

Nielsen will adjust local UEs with the changes to be released in late August 2011 for the 2011-12 TV season and review TV penetration on an annual basis moving forward.


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