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.