TV viewing evolves in US

03 June 2011

NEW YORK: Television viewing habits are continuing to evolve in the US, as consumers adopt an increasingly diverse range of channels to access broadcast material.

Industry body the Consumer Electronics Association surveyed 1,256 adults, and found there was a noticeable reticence about "cutting the cord" on pay-TV services despite the impact of the recession.

Rather, it suggested many customers are shifting between different providers and looking online, instead of returning to free-to-air alternatives, as could reasonably be expected.

More specifically, 76% of respondents had "no interest" in ending subscriptions.

Just 10% would consider abandoning cable, satellite or fibre offerings, and 14% regarded themselves as "somewhat likely" to do so.

Reinforcing such a trend, 93% of contributors still watch video content on television in the traditional way.

An additional 49% engage in the same pastime online, an area which has experienced rapid growth during the recent past.

Car video entertainment systems, another relatively new innovation, witnessed uptake levels reach 13%.

Feature phones and smartphones also lodged 13%, a figure that is expected to rise as the iPhone and equivalent products gain ground.

A more modest 11% of the sample deployed MP3 players as a tool to enjoy this sort of material.

In all, 80% of panellists named pay-TV platforms among their favoured means of viewing video, with DVDs, Blu-Ray and VHS scoring 72%.

A further 45% referenced free on-demand shows delivered by their TV service provider and 41% played back material on a digital video recorder.

Exactly one third of those polled had paid for show or films through a VOD property run by their subscription provider, and 31% visited other relevant websites, including YouTube.

When discussing broadcasters' branded outlets and official aggregators like Hulu, 27% of interviewees are utilising these portals.

An extra 22% had purchased films or programmes from companies such as Netflix or via Hulu Plus.

To date, however, only 4% streamed items from formal mobile phone sources like Verizon VCAST.

"Over-the-air TV was once the defining distribution platform," said Gary Shapiro, CEA president and chief executive.

"It's time we accept this shift away from over-the-air TV as an irrevocable fact of the TV market. The numbers tell the story."

The CEA estimates that 96% of America's 119m households currently own a TV set.

Overall, 88% pay for at least one type of service, with cable taking a 53% share, satellite claiming 32%, and fibre alternatives yielding 10%.

Cable's proportion of the total has actually declined from over 60% in 2005, since when satellite's figures have improved by more than 5%, and fibre was at a base rate of effectively zero.

Data sourced from Consumer Electronics Association; additional content by Warc staff