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Is broadcast TV making a comeback?

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The number of homes with only commercially supported broadcast-only TV appears to be on the rise. The switch to digital broadcasting in 2009 may be part of the reason.

Photo credit: US National Archives

That's the finding of a recent study by GfK, which shows a bump in the number of households that have "broadcast-only" reception for their television.

In a recent post, David Tice, senior vice president at GfK, says the study shows that 19.3% of TV homes report broadcast-only reception, "compared with a level of 17.8% in 2012, and as low as 14% as recently as 2010. Projected out, this means that in 2013, roughly around 22 million homes rely only on over-the-air broadcast rather than pay TV service."

Several factors are driving this "cord-cutting," he states. First, there are economic factors, as people balk at paying monthly cable rates.

Second, Tice says, the transition to the digital TV (DTV) broadcast standard has not only improved signal quality, but also has made additional channels possible. As he explains, "Digital broadcasting is the numerous over-the-air digital side channels, offering a variety of additional programming in addition to the main broadcast channels. In larger markets, this means there may be over 20 total channels via over-the-air (OTA) broadcast signals."

As a lot of quality programming is now available through the Internet, this could ultimately drive business away from pay TV. However, Tice says, few cord-cutting households say they are doing so because of Internet alternatives -- 60% are basing their decisions on cost.

It stands to reason, however, that the rise of quality and varied Internet-based programming is pulling viewers' attention away from standard pay TV, and thus making it harder to justify that monthly cable bill. Plus, many households are now actually multi-screen environments, and the standard television screen no longer catches viewers' undivided attention as it did in days of yore.

— By on July 10, 2013, 8:12 AM PST

Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure