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US TV Household Ownership Drops

May 20, 2011

This article by John Naughton caught my eye:

A new report from Nielsen, the US media ratings firm, conveys some bad news to the broadcast TV networks. Ownership of television sets by US households has fallen for the first time in two decades.

Granted, the decline – 96.7% of American households now own sets, down from 98.9% previously – may not seem very much, but there will be many in the industry who will wonder if it’s the faint tremor that presages an earthquake. After all, for as long as most of us can remember, a TV set has been almost as commonplace a piece of domestic kit as a cooker. And television has been the dominant organism in our media ecosystem for just about as long.

Now there could be other factors for this change – resession being one of them. The author does address these points, but also points to another, more wide-reaching, explanation:

But there are also reasons for thinking that the current decline might be a harbinger. The main one is that for younger generations ownership of a TV set is no longer seen as a badge of adulthood. The number of kids taking a receiver with them to university, for example, is now vanishingly small. And that’s not just because most campuses have communal viewing facilities; it’s also a reflection of the fact that while young people watch a lot of video material, they increasingly do so via a laptop (with the more affluent among them viewing via an iPad or other tablet device).

This would make the news item news indeed. Along with the decline in TV audiences, its another statistic pointing to the slow fall of TV as the dominant media platform of our age. (Also, that is not to say video as media form is in decline, its not, but that TV as a platform to access it, is.)

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