The leader of the 25th-largest TV-station group said Thursday that
100 million TV sets in the United States remain totally reliant upon free,
'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., which is based in Providence, R.I. 'Today, there are at least
100 million television receivers still that are broadcast-only.'
Chapman, whose company owns 16 stations, said his figures were derived from a
survey conducted by Nielsen Media Research in two LIN markets, Dallas and
Hartford, Conn. The survey, he added, showed that 55 percent of cable and
satellite homes have multiple sets not hooked up to cable or DBS.
The National Association of Broadcasters estimated that Americans own 250
million TV receivers. According to various industry data, at least 83 million
are hooked either to cable (with 68 million subscribers) or DBS (15
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 not hooked up to cable,
satellite television, or some other pay TV provider.
The backdrop for the FCC's noncable, non-DBS TV-set 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 -- the implication being that broadcasters are sitting on
underutilized spectrum that could be more valuable in the hands of mobile
Chapman indicated that the fact that 100 million TV sets rely on off-air
reception meant that broadcasters were still 'special' and deserving of
regulatory benefits to preserve free TV against the encroachments of pay TV
'Putting the math aside, the short answer to the question of when we stop
being special is when we stop being free,' Chapman said.
Chapman also issued a challenge to National Cable & Telecommunications
Association president Robert Sachs that cable, too, could enjoy broadcasters'
unspecified regulatory benefits if it provided free service.
'Bob [Sachs] or anybody from the NCTA who would like to take the offer today
-- if cable wants to share our special status and stop charging for service, we
will embrace you and welcome you to the brotherhood,' Chapman said. 'In fact, we
might even agree to that if you were to agree to just stop charging for the
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