Roughly 22 million American households now rely solely on over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts to feed their TV viewing habit. That's the news from research firm GFK, which has recorded a statistically significant increase in OTA-only viewing over the last three years.
In 2010, GFK's survey of U.S. homes found just 14 percent of households relying on broadcast-only TV. In 2012, that number jumped to 19.3 percent and now it has risen well above the 20 million mark.
The growth in OTA viewing in the U.S. coincides with continuing declines in the number of cable TV subscribers. In the first quarter, for instance, nearly all major U.S. MSOs suffered drops in basic video customers. (See Comcast Suffers Q1 Video Subs Setback.)
However, GFK's research comes with a cautionary note for anyone who believes that non-cable homes are full of consumers seeking streaming video alternatives. Few of these cord cutters have an Internet-connected TV, and more than 60 percent said they rely on broadcast signals because of the high cost of pay-TV services, not because of Web video options available.
GFK cites the digital television transition as one possible factor in the growth of broadcast-only homes. In some markets, the transition boosted the number and quality of accessible TV channels.
The right antenna can also make a big difference, and at least one manufacturer is raking in cash from the trend toward more OTA viewing. Mohu, creator of the Leaf antenna, saw revenues skyrocket 700 percent in 2012 and expects a further 300 percent increase in 2013. (See DirecTV Might Sack Its NFL Exclusive.)
— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable