NY Times: Nielsen Reports a Decline in Television Viewing

May 3, 2012


According to the New York Times, the number of households with a television set or access to a television service provider has shrunk to 114.1 million. Brian Stelter says that, while the vast majority of American homes still have functioning television sets, more than one million households “no longer meet Nielsen’s definition of a ‘TV household:’ those that have at least one television set and a cable, satellite or antenna connection.”

The declines comes just one year after Nielsen said the number of such households had dropped to 114.7 million, from 115.9 million previously, despite a rise in the number of households in the country. That 2010 drop off was the first of its kind in 20 years.

Brian Erni

We’ve been forecasting it for a few weeks, and these numbers seem to confirm our suspicion: the television industry is on the precipice of radical change. The rise of on-demand, web-based platforms, such as Netflix, Apple TV and Hulu, seemed like they were at the center of this evolution, but most Americans use those platforms as an augment to their existing hook up. So what is causing people to ditch the set?

What these figures seem to imply is that tablets, mobile phones, and other handheld devices pose more of a threat to the television than where the content lives. Assuming that’s the case, the change more pressing is in how Americans consume programming, as opposed to how it’s delivered. Is congregating with family and friends around a TV a thing of the past? Will our experiences of coming together around an individual point of interest (something that has a long lineage in human existence) shift to a largely individual experience? Each person sitting on their side of the couch with their own programming coming through their own device? And should that happen, will viewers expect more customized, interactive content to satiate needs presented by these new perimeters?

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