A Sign The Internet Has Won? TV Ownership Declining
College mass communications courses may one day look back on this year as the first verifiable proof that broadcast and cable television was entering obselecence.
It's the first in Nielsen Media Research existence - which dates back to 1970 - in which the group reports that television set ownership among American households has declined.
The annual "Television Audience" report released this week predicts that homes owning a television will fall from 115.9 million in 2011 to an estimated 114.7 million in 2012. Ownership of a television set has leveled off as the economy has declined the last several years, according to Entertainment Weekly, though the actual number of American households to be sampled has increased.
To further break the numbers down, ownership among the most prized demographic among advertisers and networks (adults 18-49 years old) also fell 2.7 percent, double the estimated household decline. Equally telling, 3 percent of households don't own a television at all. That's the highest percentage since 1975, and up one percent from the previous year's survey.
Though interesting, it's also less than surprising. Cable companies can tout every package they like that bundles projects like digital cable, digital phone service and high-speed internet service all they like. Many of those packages still approach or exceed upward of $100 per month - though a bargain compared with the price of paying the individual price for each service, that's still usually double or so what a mere high-speed internet connection costs.
Consider that many basic or extended-basic digital cable packages alone cost around $50 or so, and that a Netflix or Hulu Plus digital streaming package provides unlimited access to online libraries of content for less than $10 each.
That's without even taking into account how many networks put the most recent episodes of their shows online absolutely free, and that many shows are also made available gratis via Hulu even without a Plus membership.
Consider even that though the resurrection of "Arrested Development" will be televised, it damn sure won't be on FOX. Sorry, but that pooch was probably more screwed by cancelling the show in the first place than anything else. No, new episodes will be coming entirely to Netflix.
Any of those options alone or in combination puts entertainment completely at our fingertips. Now, under the standard business model of cable television providers, consider just how many networks you pay for monthly that provide hundreds of hours of programming you never watch.
If anything keeps the television set alone as a desireable product, it's probably going to be the video game industry. And even then, if I could plug my PlayStation 3 into my laptop, even my television usage would decline.
If broadcast television as we know it is declining, it's because someone finally formulated the better business models that were needed in these times for the entertainment industry to remain viable. Much like how P2P file-sharing services like Napster forced the music and recording industries to adapt the way they did business to the revolutions in consumer needs and demands, the ball is now in the broadcast industry's court to evolve or perish.