Is yours a 'zero TV' home?

This is fascinating. About 5 million Americans have apparently dropped their cable and satellite services and won't even watch free TV with an antenna. That's up from 2 million in 2007.

They are part of a fast growing trend known as "zero TV" homes.

With services like Netflix they can watch any series they wish - albeit a year later. And up to 130 networks are streaming their content live over the internet. Tablets, pads, even mobile devices like phones can now pick up many stations (with probably many more to follow).

Associated Press:

For the first time, TV ratings giant Nielsen took a close look at this category of viewer in its quarterly video report released in March. It plans to measure their viewing of new TV shows starting this fall, with an eye toward incorporating the results in the formula used to calculate ad rates.

"Our commitment is to being able to measure the content wherever it is," says Dounia Turrill, Nielsen's senior vice president of insights.

The Zero TV segment is increasingly important, because the number of people signing up for traditional TV service has slowed to a standstill in the U.S.

Last year, the cable, satellite and telecoms providers added just 46,000 video customers collectively, according to research firm SNL Kagan. That is tiny when compared to the 974,000 new households created last year. While it's still 100.4 million homes, or 84.7 percent of all households, it's down from the peak of 87.3 percent in early 2010.

Nielsen's study suggests that this new group may have left traditional TV for good. While three-quarters actually have a physical TV set, only 18 percent are interested in hooking it up through a traditional pay TV subscription.

Zero TVers tend to be younger, single and without children. Nielsen's senior vice president of insights, Dounia Turrill, says part of the new monitoring regime is meant to help determine whether they'll change their behavior over time. "As these homes change life stage, what will happen to them?"

Cynthia Phelps, a 43-year-old maker of mental health apps in San Antonio, Texas, says there's nothing that will bring her back to traditional TV. She's watched TV in the past, of course, but for most of the last 10 years she's done without it.

She finds a lot of programs online to watch on her laptop for free - like the TED talks educational series - and every few months she gets together with friends to watch older TV shows on DVD, usually "something totally geeky," like NBC's "Chuck."

If I wasn't a sports fanatic, I wouldn't watch much TV at all. I love movies but aside from a few blockbusters in recent years, I haven't bothered to watch the schlock they are putting out these days (I haven't watched more than a handful of comedies in the last 10 years).

Broadcaster are understandably nervous and well they should be. Perhaps if they are forced to win people back, they will have to begin offering far better programming than they currently give us.

In the meantime, don't tune in, turn on, and drop out.


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