TV Ownership Drops for First Time in Nielsen History

With services like Netflix and Hulu beefing up their streaming selections, it’s easier than ever to pull the plug on your TV and still remain in the pop culture loop — and increasingly, consumers are doing just that. According to a new report released this week by Nielsen Media Research, the number of U.S. households that own a television set will actually drop between 2011 and 2012, the first such decline since the company began tracking that statistic in 1970. The decrease is especially significant given that the number of households in the U.S. continues to grow from year to year.

But don’t count the small screen out just yet. The same survey also reveals that the total amount of time spent watching TV by an average household is on its way up. More details after the jump.

Nielsen estimates that the total number of households with at least one TV will drop 1%, from 115.9 million homes in 2011 to 114.7 million homes in 2012. Among the 18-49 demo, that decline is even steeper, at 2.7%. In fact, the number of U.S. households in 2012 will be the highest it’s been since 1975. All that said, TV-less homes are still very much in the minority. Even with the decline in TV ownership, just 3% of American homes will have no TV in 2012.

Meanwhile, for those households that do still have televisions, certain supplementary technologies are enjoying an uptick in popularity. Nielsen expects that the number of homes with DVR will increase to 41% in 2012, while digital cable will reach 51% of households and HDTV 67%. And though more households may be shunning TV sets altogether, others have even more than before, as the proportion of homes with three or more televisions jumps slightly to 56%. In addition, the amount of time an average household spends watching TV has hit a record high of 59 hours 28 minutes per week.

There’s one technology that isn’t doing too well, however. The number of households with DVD players is expected to slip down to 85% in 2012, down from its record high of 88%. Though that drop could be attributed to a number of different factors, including the economy, it also suggests that consumers are ditching discs in favor of Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and other digital services. As that trend continues, it may not be long before we see DVD players go the way of VCRs — just 57% of households now own those, down from 90% seven years ago.

[Source: Entertainment Weekly, The Kansas City Star]

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