The US appears to be witnessing a resurgence in over-the-air TV (OTA), research by Nielsen has found.

A TV set with an aerial and a channel dial was once the household norm and familiar to millions of people growing up decades ago. As of May 2018, Nielsen found, 14% of US households – that’s 16 million homes – once again have OTA status.

As consumers look for more on-demand and cost-effective solutions, the Nielsen Local Watch Report (pdf) says, there has been a jump in OTA households – up 50% in the past eight years.

Researchers identified two categories of those who have opted for over-the-air rather than the more usual cable or satellite TV subscriptions.

One is older viewers, with a median age of 55, who exclusively watch OTA TV, and who don’t have any subscriptions to streaming services.

There are some 6.6 million homes in this group, Nielsen says. They are diverse and over half had a household income of under $30,000. Cutting the cord may be related to this, the report suggested: it could be about saving money.

Then there are some 9.4 million households in the second group. These homes have at least one paid-for service, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. People in this group are younger, with a median age of just 36, and they are more likely to be white non-Hispanics living in homes with four or more people.

“They are well connected, with the majority having access to personal devices and plenty of ways to stream content to their TV,” the report adds.

Because they are using multiple devices for other things besides watching video, such as gaming and social media, this group generally watches less traditional TV – four hours a day compared to six hours of watching time in the first group.

Even so, when both groups do watch TV, the majority still choose the traditional big-screen TV set to do so.

The report also identifies another small, but growing group – those households that have OTA TVs, plus access to a virtual provider, including services like Sling TV, DirectTV, Now, Sony PlayStation Vue and YouTube TV.

Nielsen reported there are 1.3 million of these households, and they tend to have a higher median income, are 95% more likely to have an internet-connected device than the average home, 56% more likely to have children, and also have access to cable and satellite. They spend almost an equal amount of time watching broadcast and cable sources.

Sourced from Nielsen; additional content by WARC staff