100M Need Free Over-Air TV

The leader of the 25th-largest TV-station group said last week that 100 million sets in the United States remain totally reliant upon free, over-the-air broadcasting.

"The majority of viewing in cable or satellite households after the initial set is over the air," said Gary Chapman, chairman, president and CEO of LIN Television Corp. "Today, there are at least 100 million television receivers that are still broadcast-only."

Chapman said his figures were derived from a survey conducted by Nielsen Media Research in two LIN markets, Dallas and Hartford, Conn. The survey showed that 55 percent of cable and satellite homes have multiple sets that aren't hooked up to cable or DBS.

The National Association of Broadcasters estimated that Americans own 250 million TV receivers. According to industry data, at least 83 million are hooked either to cable (with 68 million subscribers) or DBS (15 million).

Until Chapman provided his estimate, it was unclear to the Federal Communications Commission and Nielsen how many of the remaining 167 million sets were not connected to cable or DBS.

Nevertheless, the FCC said last week that it was seeking information on the number of U.S. households with at least one TV set that isn't hooked up to cable, satellite television, or some other pay TV provider.

The backdrop for the FCC census was likely an attempt to decide whether the agency needs to fashion new spectrum policies in the event that the vast majority of households have their TV sets hooked up to pay TV providers.