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Nielsen Finds Drop in Over-the-Air Channels

For the first time in memory, the number of over-the-air TV channels available to U.S. households declined, according to Nielsen estimates released Friday.

The survey also found that satellite continues to take multichannel-video market share away from cable.

TV households averaged 17.0 broadcast channels in 2007, down from 17.5 in 2006 and this compares to 13.5 in 2000.

“We don’t know exactly why” the average fell in 2007, said a Nielsen spokesperson.

That tidbit was among various nuggets from Nielsen about the TV industry in 2007, including the fact that the percentage of homes with "wired cable hookups” has declined from 68% in 2000 to 61%. Meanwhile, satellite's share has risen to 27%, up from 19% only three years ago.

While the cable industry wants all the customers it can get, if its market share climbs too high, it could trigger an FCC effort to further regulate the industry to insure competition.

The cable industry has been arguing that its future, rather than growing its sub base, is instead in converting subs to more services like phone and Internet.

The good news for cable is that of that 61% who get their service, more than half are now taking digital cable. The industry is pushing hard to migrate customers to digital to free up bandwidth for advanced services.

In another finding, TV households maintained loyalty to roughly the same number of channels, even as the pool of available channels expanded.

In 2007, the average household tuned in to 16 channels for at least 10 minutes during the week. In 2006, the comparable figure was 15.7 channels. But the number of TV channels available per household swelled to 118.6, versus just 104.2 in 2006. As a result, the favorite channels with 10 minutes of viewing per week accounted for 13% of available TV channels in 2007, versus 15% in 2006.

African American households continue to watch more television than the total U.S. composite while Hispanic households viewed less. For African Americans, the figure is 45 hours and 22 minutes per week versus 27 hours and 13 minutes in Hispanic households. Average viewing in all households weighed in the middle at 31 hours and 55 minutes.

In other interesting metrics, Nielsen notes:

·        The average U.S. TV home has 2.5 people and 2.8 television sets.

·        31% of U.S. TV homes have digital cable.

·        82% of U.S homes have more than one television sets at home.

·        87% of U.S. homes have a DVD player, with that technology overtaking VCRs which are in 79% of households.