Television After Television

Here comes the "Zero TV" home.


The AP runs a trend piece on those households the Nielson company calls "Zero TV" homes—not homes where people don't watch TV, but homes where they don't watch TV on their TVs. For example, "young people who move out on their own and never set up a landline phone connection or a TV subscription" and instead "make do with a broadband Internet connection, a computer, a cellphone and possibly a TV set that is not hooked up the traditional way."


The Zero TV segment is increasingly important, because the number of people signing up for traditional TV service has slowed to a standstill in the U.S.

Last year, the cable, satellite and telecoms providers added just 46,000 video customers collectively, according to research firm SNL Kagan. That is tiny when compared to the 974,000 new households created last year. While it's still 100.4 million homes, or 84.7 percent of all households, it's down from the peak of 87.3 percent in early 2010.

Nielsen's study suggests that this new group may have left traditional TV for good. While three-quarters actually have a physical TV set, only 18 percent are interested in hooking it up through a traditional pay TV subscription.

A decline from 87.3 to 84.7 isn't so severe, but it's easy to imagine the Zero TV group growing much larger—and disrupting broadcasters' business models as it expands. Even people who do have old-fashioned antennas or cable subscriptions still might find themselves using them less and less. I know I do most of my viewing these days on my laptop. The TV set is mostly a machine for watching live programs and for DVRing my daughter's shows.


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  1. I know many people like this.
    They don’t see the justification of paying over $100/month for TV they watch for 3 shows.
    If they want to keep subscribers, cable companies will need to change their packaging to allow greater flexibility in their options to pick and pay for channels.

    1. it’s hard to do that. Ala carte for subscriptions would likely drive the price up.

      Still, a lot of it has to do with networks charging a damned fortune. ESPN is the biggest problem.

    2. I’d dump it in a heartbeat if I could get sports.

      1. you can, xbox live

      2. is my sport streaming go-to site. Although I wouldn’t consider it legit, it does carry all the games live.

        1. Nice! I’m watching Barcelona v. Paris St. Germaine right now. Thanks Proprietist.

          1. and I’ve been watching Bayern-Juventus (In German)

          2. The international aspect of that site is definitely nice if you are a fan of sports like soccer where the premier league is not American and is not typically broadcast here. Also it’s likely to have locally broadcast college games you can’t get where you live.

            1. I’m watching The Masters now. The feed is from SkyTV. I swear, even the British commentary is better than the US commentary. They just tend to not say stupid shit, just for the sake of talking. They’ll actually be quiet sometimes, and let the action tell the story.

        2. Thanks!

  2. I don’t have cable or broadcast TV. My television is connected to the internet via my PS3, which I use to stream Netflix and baseball, and watch movies and shows on DVD or Blu-Ray. Also to play video games.

    I can’t imagine anything of value I am missing by not having cable.

    1. How do you go about streaming baseball or sports in general? Not privy to the best place to go for that.

      1. The only drag is that you can’t watch in-market games live on your TV because the cable people don’t like the internets horning in on their action.

        1. I have the same setup as you, except I worry not about local blackouts. Thank you private VPN subscription!

          1. I just use foxyproxy and proxy-list. When your proxy dies (which happens once a week, maybe), it takes all of two minutes to find another one that works.

      2. There are sports streaming sites.
        This season I used NHL Gamecenter LIVE for hockey and for Sunday Ticket/Redzone.

        1. Do you know if will play on the PS3?

          1. no, I used a laptop hooked up to my TV

    2. “I can’t imagine anything of value I am missing by not having cable.”

      I have a $25 Dish Network account just so I can get HBO and watch Game of Thrones. Seriously HBO, your business model sucks. I’m willing to pay Amazon $2 an episode for Walking Dead, for God’s sake!

  3. Sure sure, but when do we get smellevision?

  4. My wife and I watch TV through our laptops through Verizon DSL.

  5. The price of a TV subscription has gotten outrageous. When I worked for DirecTV 10 years ago, you could get their premier package, which included everything but premium sports (NFL Sunday Ticket, MLB Extra Inning, etc) for about $90. It’s more than double that now. And they nickel and dime you for everything nowadays.

    Yes, technology has changed. DVR service is fantastic, there are more channels and most are in HD. But some of those things are cheaper to create and maintain. And now there are more commercials during sporting events than ever, it seems.

    I will likely get DTV for the NFL sunday ticket, come fall, but I don’t really watch all that much except for sports and a few channels in the 240s. But once I have better internet where I’m moving, I might spend more time online gaming or streaming.

  6. There is something called Aereo that is pissing off the subscription TV folks. And subscriber TV is everything that is wrong with TV. I hate Comcast almost as much as I hate progtards. Almost. Internet is all that anyone needs to watch TV. Who the hell has time to watch 400 channels of fluff all day long? Better question, why does anyone want to?

    Best course for TV is to be able to purchase content, a la carte, over the internet. We used to be able to do that back in the big dish days. We’ve went backwards! Not that most people would have room for a 10′ satellite dish that you have to set azimuth and inclination for. But everyone has internet now, so problem solved, if we can just break up the government created TV content monopolies… you, know, the government which is supposed to protect us from monopolies?

    1. internet providers have bad bandwidth allotments, though. If you wanted to stream all the time, you’ll quickly hit your 150-250 GBs of data. That’s especially true if you download music, movies, and games.

      there is a huge push to make everything digital only, but bandwidth caps in this country, as well as slow speeds in most of it, make it unrealistic… not to mention removing ownership of your media.

      1. And those bandwidth caps are often pushed by…cable companies!

        1. to be fair, DSL companies do it too.

          Fortunately, Comcast is coming around and not being such big douches about it. They will allow one to buy extra bandwidth at a “reasonable” price. It used to be they would just shut you down if you were a repeate offender.

          1. Are those real bandwidth limits, or artificial ones?

            1. it’s all artificial.

              Bandwidth is really the amount of data that can pass through a pipeline at a given moment. But providers morphed it into how much you can upload & download (total) in a given month.

              1. I don’t believe that for a second. The growth in data usage is exponential, yet the subscriber count is the same. You’re telling me that’s not putting a strain on the networks?

                People said the same thing about wireless broadband when then they started to cap that. Well, Sprint didn’t cap their plans…you ever try watch a youtube video over their 3G? It’s a joke.

    2. How does the USG create these monopolies? I am curious and want to compare it to Canada’s horrendous telcom regulations.

      1. Yeah, in Canada we just blame the CRTC.

      2. Cronyism

  7. I fall in this group. I have an internet-connected TV and get all of my shows from Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu. I thought I would miss cable, but I don’t at all. And the only commercials I have to sit through are on Hulu.

  8. I didn’t have cable TV at all, and wouldn’t have it now, except that I had to buy a fucking package that I don’t want, just to get Globo TV for my wife. If I ever figure out how to get that, live streaming, over the net, I will drop back to internet only, the same day.

  9. Note to Jesse: I looked over the writeup on the new book you have coming out and it looks kinda interesting. My daughter has a slightly more than passing interest in conspiracy theories as well, I might pick up the book so we can peruse it. When does it come out?

    1. Thanks for your interest. It’ll be out on August 20.

      1. Right around my birthday, I think I’ll drop it on my list. No book is better than a free book.

  10. I think pretty much the only reason you need a cable or satellite provider is for live sporting events. They certainly seem to figure it that way which is why they charge outrageous prices to get the sporting channels you want, usually by including them only in their premium packages. So you end with dozens of channels you’ll never watch.

    1. That is all I keep it for. All of the shows are available on the internet.

      1. true, but they usually aren’t available right away. Sometimes you have to to wait a couple of days after it’s been aired.

        1. You can find a torrent within 30 minutes of air time.

          1. well, if you want to go the less-than-legal route, sure.

          2. You can also find instant streams, so why wait?

        2. I usually wait a couple of days anyway because I DVR them to avoid the commercials, which of course is another nail in commercial broadcast TV’s coffin.

          Dish Network in addition to producing the most awesome ad campaign in the last 10 years, probably is going to kill TV with “the hoppa”.

          1. Dish Network in addition to producing the most awesome ad campaign in the last 10 years, probably is going to kill TV with “the hoppa”.

            I hate hearing those commercials, the accents drive me nuts. But you are right, they will kill tv with it.

            1. Well, if you want to put up with Dish and them dropping channels out every couple of months.

            2. My wife is from Boston. You have no idea how close those commercials are to reality. It is just perfect, the old tacky furniture, grandpa living in the basement, the teenage kids upstairs, the accent. My God, that is Boston. I love it. My wife is borderline offended by it.

              1. They’re hysterical. I think they’re better if you have some experience with people that actually talk like that.

                1. well, it is monumentally better than those AT&T commercials with the kids… those commercials are making me hate kids.

                  Also, it’s better that that Pitbull crap. Last year it was Dr. Pepper, now Bud Light…. fucking Pitbull. I wish Michael Vick would do to him what he did with his pitbulls.

                  1. I loved the AT&T commercials with the kids. Those things are brilliant. That is exactly the way kids think. I would love to know if they wrote them or just let the kids talk until they got what they wanted. The werewolf one or the one with the little girl explaining how “we want more” are classics.

                    1. Agree – the AT&T kids are one of the more enjoyable and least annoying ad campaigns, even if it’s a non-sequitur. To be honest, for all the times I’ve seen them, I didn’t even remember those were AT&T commercials which indicates they failed to convey their message properly.

                    2. I have soft spot for kids that age. Old enough to be a bit self sufficient but not yet old enough to be the hoodlums that are middle school kids.


        3. I rarely watch non-sports shows live anyway. Hardly matters if I have to wait a day to watch some sitcom. Much more frustrating to have to wait a day to watch the superbowl.

          1. my roommate sometimes records sports events if he is unable to watch it live. I really don’t understand that. It’s past and gone. what’s to get excited about if the game is already over?

            Now it can be something to record it and go back and watch how the refs cost you the game. But watching a whole game from start to finisht that was recorded? Nope, not for me.

            1. It’s only good if you haven’t learned the result.

            2. I record football games and start watching an hour after kickoff. I get to skip the commercials, only watch the interesting parts of the halftime show, and catch up around the beginning of the 4th quarter, so I see the end live.

    2. And for watching Game of Thrones

      1. I can torrent everything but live sports.
        Even watching live sports on streaming sites can be not worth the while, cutting out, lagging, choppy
        Plus bandwidth caps.

        1. Yeah, this is what I don’t get. I can’t stream anything bigger than about 4×6 inches without wanting to throw my laptop through a window. The way things are now, streaming is not an acceptable substitute for cable.

      2. Yet another benefit of not having cable is a built-in excuse for not watching GoT/Downton Abbey/Walking Dead.

        1. Actually, the point of this trend is sort of that you can no longer use that as an excuse. GoT is a bit of an outlier because HBO is one of the only media properties that doesn’t make its content legally available to nonsubscribers in any way.

          1. Sorry nicole, I can’t discuss tasteless Dungeons & Dragons pr0n with you. I haven’t seen it because I don’t have cable.

            1. You don’t need cable to watch Game of Thrones. Technically…

              1. Real libertarians don’t resort to theft.

                1. The real theft is TSN buying the Canadian broadcast rights to F1 and then providing crappy broadcasts. Me streaming SkySportsF1 to watch a race is justifiable.

              2. You don’t need cable to watch Game of Thrones. Technically…


            2. Leave this place.

          2. HBO execs must be some of the dumbest people on the planet, outside of government. What do they do when they learn that GoT is the most pirated show in history? Shrug it off. I would gladly buy every episode, if it was available digitally within say a week of airtime.

            1. I would too. But I refuse to pay for HBO every month to watch one show. But if they wanted to charge me by the episode to watch just that show, they would get some money our of me.

            2. I’d pay a couple of bucks an episode to watch it. That’s not an option, so I’ll have to stick to watching it on Mondays via some sketchy site that gives HBO no money at all.

          3. I’d be happy to discuss Burn Notice with you, though. I’m caught up through the end of Season 5

            1. I liked Burn Notice better when it was called MacGyver

          4. I read recently that HBO is considering offering a streaming-only monthly subscription to its content. They’d be fools not to.

            Most live sports can already be purchased by subscription; the local blackout restrictions will eventually go away although you will probably be subjected to commercials of some kind when they do.

            The bandwidth limits the cable companies place will eventually be raised since some bandwidth will be freed up by people not watching the typical networks. It’ll be tiered service – you want to stream more you will pay more. But that makes more sense than paying for channels you don’t watch.

            The big stink will come when another bandwidth provider wants to come into a town and the government-granted-monopoly provider sees problems with competition.

            1. that’s the issue today. Government granted monopolies are why we have lousy service, slow speeds, and restrictive bandwidth. Allowing more competition will make companies have to provide better service, faster speeds, and more bandwidth at better prices.

    3. Most pro sports leagues have live/archive streaming services that are vastly superior to watching on TV. is an awesome product for a dude living out of his team’s market.

    4. I think pretty much the only reason you need a cable or satellite provider is for live sporting events.

      We just ordered a roku 3. But I will miss college football. But that is the only thing I will miss.

    5. Reason 39834 that people who seriously watch sports are plebs.

    6. I am kind of tempted to drop my TV package since I end up watching most sporting events either at the bar or the game itself anyway.

      1. I am kind of tempted to drop my TV package since I end up watching most sporting events either at the bar or the game itself anyway.

        We talked about it for a long time. We watch maybe one or two shows a week except for football season. Roku has an SEC channel and cbssports360 so that will work for us. Can’t wait to get rid of Directv.

        1. I had that conversation with my wife a month or so ago, when she found out that basic cable was costing almost $100 per month. I’d moved out of the house when we separated, so I wasn’t watching it. She only watched stuff while working out. I noted that the kids watched sports (my son) and Disney dreck (my daughter), and so maybe it was getting used enough to justify the expense.

  11. If people stop owning TVs, how will “I don’t even own a TV” guy (and you know the breed of douche bag I am talking about) distinguish himself from the proles?

    1. yeah, I’ve come across several of those pretentious douches. “I don’t know why anyone would want to waste their time watching TV. I read books, go outside, blah blah blah.” they need a kick in the damned teeth.

      1. You know, some people genuinely do feel that way, no pretense required.

        1. that’s fine, but they are usually smug about it. If you don’t want to watch TV because you do all that other stuff, fine. Just don’t be smug about it or act like everyone else should be doing the same thing.

          1. I agree it’s obnoxious. But no different from how most people are about cars, pizza, beer, taste in art and most other matters of personal preference.

    2. You mean Area Man?

      1. Yes. This will be a big problem for Area Man and his sense of self worth.

    3. Horned rimmed glasses and greasy hair.

    4. I suspect Mr Man will find some other way to distinguish his complete lack of connection to the outside world. A teepee or mud hut setup in an abandoned lot or something.

    5. If people stop owning TVs, how will “I don’t even own a TV” guy (and you know the breed of douche bag I am talking about) distinguish himself from the proles?

      By talking about it. Those of us with no TV in the house, who watch much the same stuff they would if they did have a TV, don’t feel a need to talk about it unless someone else brings it up in conversation.

      1. Basically, my iMac monitor IS my TV, with a clearer picture and better content than the TVs I grew up with.

        1. the TVs you grew up with were 480i. Any TV today has a clearer picture.

          Well, I’m assuming you’re over the age of 25 anyway.

          1. My iMac has a better picture than the TV I had just three years ago or so, before I bought a 55″ flat screen and upgraded to HD cable.

            The TV of my childhood was about half none at all, and half a 13″ black and white low rez.

            1. I’m over 50, BTW.

              1. yeah, the iMacs are better than TVs today, except the 4K variety. But most content is not in 2560×1440. videos usually max out at 1920×1080

  12. “I don’t watch television.”

    You mean this phrase can no longer be spoken loudly at parties without caveat? Everyone’s going to assume the hipster elitist is a streamer.

  13. I like it all. Cable with a DVR along with Netflix. I’d have satellite too if there wasn’t a tree topped hill in the way.

  14. We have cable but my teenaged sons rarely watch it. I keep it primarily for HBO. They both have laptops and if they watch an actual program use Hulu or Netflicks or the Xbox. Once they move out (soon please!!!) I can’t imagine either of them paying for cable.

  15. I have Dish HD with two DVRs. I live in the country and broad-band Internet is not really good enough yet, although the new Wildblue/Excede service is pretty nifty. But the monthly data cap is still way to low to think about going without satellite TV.

    1. holy crap… the max you can get is 25gbs per month?

      I’d go through that in like… two days!

  16. I just can’t get beyond cable channel flipping on a big screen HD TV. It’s that bit of audiophile left in me from back when I had 600 watt JBL speakers–how can you enjoy media on a pocket phone or laptop? Plus we have FiOS, not Comcast, so that’s eliminated the “scream into your phone and flip the desk outage calls.”

    But I see this in my teen daughter. She’s Netflix and on-demand and everything on her laptop and smartphone. TV is for the rare family night viewing of Community.

    1. Headphones.

    2. Easy… hook your computer up to your TV like I do (at least for now). And if you have a gaming console (360, PS3, WiiU) you can play Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime from your console.

      1. Netflix is on one TV through a blu ray player and another one through PS3.

        I’m thinking we’re going to cut the cord once the kids are out of the house. FiOS internet plus those three you mentioned should be enough.

        Especially if network and basic cable continue their evolution to 24/7 reality shows.

        1. I hate most reality shows. The only ones that are fun are things like Duck Dynasty. But I also liked King of the Nerds.

    3. do you often put 600Ws through your JBLs?

      1. I only had a 75 Yamaha watt receiver. But I could crank it up pretty loud. Sisters of Mercy turned to 11 is pretty cool when you’re 21.

    4. Buy a Smart TV or a device like Roku.

      1. there’s that too. Smart TV is the new thing.

  17. I just watch DVDs on my TV – no cable or satellite. This was a conscious decision since I can get plenty more done day-to-day if I’m not flipping through channels trying to find _something_ to watch.

    Of course my method makes you suffer… I’m catching up on GoT, watching the second season via Netflix DVD service (not streaming!).

  18. For example, “young people who move out on their own and never set up a landline phone connection or a TV subscription” and instead “make do with a broadband Internet connection, a computer, a cellphone and possibly a TV set that is not hooked up the traditional way.”

    Not just younger people — I’m doing that too. Why pay $100 a month for a cable TV subscription when it’s full of unwatchable dreck?

    1. Why pay $100 a month for a cable TV subscription when it’s full of unwatchable dreck?

      Yep, this. With Amazon Plus we can watch the shows we want, without commercials.

    2. That’s how I feel too. For that $100, you can buy 4-7 seasons of your favorite shows ever on DVD. Many great shows are already on Netflix, and you can sample the rest on Amazon, Hulu or iTunes. If sports is your thing, you can buy subscription streaming from each league if you. If you don’t mind skirting the edge of illegitimacy and swapping convenience for patience, you can watch everything for free, often live or within an hour of broadcast.

  19. I kind of like the way that sounds dude.

  20. An interesting thing I found abut TV is that When I moved and stopped getting cable, I was just about as likely to find something I wanted to watch on the 4 channels of broadcast TV that I got as I was when I had 60 cable channels.

    1. Similar situation, I moved in ’02 and never got around to ordering cable. Then they passed that law requiring all broadcast to be in digital, and offered everybody subsidies on converters, but I didn’t feel like ordering one of those. So the TV has basically been a DVD viewer ever since, which is really no problem because, youtube.

  21. I have a TV

    I only play PS3 video games on it.

  22. I dumped sat tv about 5 years ago now. I’m largely in a major metro area so get quite a few ota hdtv channels with quality better than that of my friends with cable/fios. I also have netflix streaming and get hockey over the internet for about $10/mo during the season. Also have a Roku and use an external drive with that to watch a lot of (free) downloaded lectures/courses. As a last resort, a family member has an extra cable box free which I can use via slingbox – a rarity but nice for the baseball game every once in a while.

  23. If a “subscription” is now the “traditional” way to get TV, what do you call the way I do it, i.e. over the air from a terrestrial xmtr?

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