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More US Households Choose Broadcast-Only TV

Asian households less likely to only have broadcast TV compared with previous years

As online TV viewing rises and the digital TV broadcast standard has improved broadcast TV quality, more households are opting for broadcast-only TV, rather than pay TV services. Research company GfK surveyed US households with TVs and found that in 2013, 19.3% of respondents had broadcast TV only and did not subscribe to any pay TV service. That’s a 37.9% increase from 2010 when only 14% of households shunned pay TV services and relied solely on broadcast TV.

Among black households, the move toward broadcast-only services has been particularly dramatic, jumping 10 percentage points to 22%.

Hispanics also increased their use of broadcast-only services, with one-quarter of these households relying exclusively on over-the-air broadcasting. That was a much smaller bump, though, since in 2010 already 23% of Hispanic households with TV relied on broadcast TV programming only. And in the other direction, the study found that among Hispanic households where primarily Spanish was spoken, the percentage that subscribed to pay TV declined from 67% in 2010 to 49% in 2013.

Interestingly, Asian households followed the opposite trajectory, with the number with broadcast-only TV declining substantially, as more seem to have adopted pay TV. In 2010, three out of 10 Asian households with TVs were broadcast-only, but by 2013, that figure had decreased to 23%, putting Asian households on par with Hispanic and black households in the percentage that chose free over-the-air TV.

The study suggested that while wider online video viewing and more internet-connected TV options may have boosted cord-cutting, basic cost savings is at the real heart of the move toward broadcast-only TV. The study found that 60% of those who cancelled their pay TV service cited cost-cutting as the reason.

A June 2013 study from CouponCabin confirmed this assessment of price as the No. 1 factor turning people off of pay TV services. CouponCabin found that 56% of US web users said other, less costly options might motivate them to cut pay TV and a comparable 55% cited not being able to afford cable anymore.

As people seek lower monthly bills and TV viewing options proliferate, the cord-cutting, cost-cutting trends will continue to converge.


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