Internet TV Delivery Set To Pass OTA TV

A new CEA study documents the continuing shift in consumer viewing habits and rise of Internet delivery. CEA President Gary Shapiro uses the data to argue in favor of turning over broadcast spectrum to wireless providers: “It’s clear that the free, public spectrum given to broadcasters could be put to much better use.”

According to a new study from the Consumer Electronics Association, The Market for U.S. Household Television Services, the percentage of U.S. households with a television that relies exclusively on an antenna for reception (6%) is about to be eclipsed for the first time by the percentage of households relying only on the Internet for TV programming (5%). CEA data since 2005 shows a continuous decline in the percentage of U.S. TV households relying only on antennas for programming.

“We are at a pivotal point in consumer behavior, as fewer and fewer American homes are now using only antennas to watch their favorite television programs, and more and more households turn to the Internet as a source of TV content,” said Gary Shapiro, president-CEO, CEA. “In 1986, more than half of American homes with a TV relied solely on free, over-the-air broadcasting. But our study reveals that just 6% of U.S. TV households now watch TV programming exclusively through an over-the-air signal. This continues a nine-year, downward trend that shows antenna-only viewership remains at all-time lows and an upward trend of consumers watching video programming when and where they choose.”

The study shows the percentage of U.S. TV households consuming at least some TV programming via the Internet has nearly doubled. Almost half of U.S. TV households (45%) received at least some television programming from the Internet in the last year, a 17 point increase from the previous year (28%).

“In the next year, we expect the number of U.S. households relying exclusively on the Internet for TV programming to equal or surpass the total of those relying only on antennas,” Shapiro said. “As consumers continue to turn to other devices and services for TV programming  — devices that need wireless spectrum to deliver the content we want anytime, anywhere — it’s clear that the free, public spectrum given to broadcasters could be put to much better use.”

In response to the CEA study, NAB EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton said: “NAB now strictly adheres to a policy of responding to only one out of five distortions and/or self-serving studies commissioned by CEA. For that reason, we respectfully decline comment except to note that the cord-cutting phenomenon and growth in over-the-air TV antenna sales seems to have escaped our friends at CEA.”

Despite growth in tablet and smartphone penetration rates, televisions are still the most widely used viewing devices, according to the study. TVs have the highest household penetration of any viewing devices (97%) and strongest video content viewership (93%), especially now that Internet-enabled televisions have reached mainstream consumers.


“The television remains the most commonly owned video viewing device and our primary means of watching video content,” said Brian Markwalter, SVP, research and standards, CEA. “But significantly more households that use televisions to watch TV programming are now also turning to alternative video devices at home. The explosive growth of Internet programming means consumers now have better options to watch video content on different types of screens they may own.”

According to the study, viewership of video programming on connected devices continues to grow. Nearly half of TV user households watched video on either a portable computer or smartphone in the last year, and more than a third watched on either a tablet or desktop computer. Specifically:

  • 46% of U.S. TV user households watched video on either a laptop, notebook or netbook (up from 38% in 2013)
  • 43% watched video on a smartphone (up from 33% in 2013)
  • 35% watched video on a tablet (up from 26% in 2013)
  • 34% watched video on a desktop computer (up from 30% in 2013)

Comments (5)

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mike tomasino says:

June 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Gary, you are a liar, and everyone knows it at this point. Every study you do is a work of fiction and dishonesty and this isn’t any different. Even if it is true that only 6% of the population rely EXCLUSIVELY on OTA TV doesn’t mean that OTA TV isn’t an increasingly important part of the media landscape. In fact the Channel Master DVR+ combines OTA TV and internet streaming. The people who own them are generally not relying EXCLUSIVELY on OTA, but that doesn’t mean that OTA isn’t an important part of their media mix. Many younger people rely exclusively on the internet because they don’t know that OTA exists, but that’s an educational problem more than anything.

Kristine Melser says:

June 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

” But our study reveals that just 6% of U.S. TV households now watch TV programming exclusively through an over-the-air signal.” ~ Can you give us the stat from your survey that tells us what percentage of people watch OTA and Internet content in combination with each other because I am sure you asked questions to be fair and balanced and did not just do a one sided survey, right ?

Joel Ordesky says:

June 5, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Exclusively? What the heck is that supposed to mean? I am a cord-cutter, and so are many of my friends. We all use antennas to watch TV, but not “exclusively.” Having OTA combined with rich internet TV programming is the way many people are now watching TV. Doesn’t the CEA track antenna sales?

    mike tomasino says:

    June 5, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Gary doesn’t care about tracking antenna sales or any other metric that would point toward a increased usage of free TV by consumers. Gary believes that smart phones make more money for his members than televisions and antenna equipment, and has made it his agenda to attempt to do everything to kill off free TV that he possibly can. Anyone who believes that Gary cares about the truth simply doesn’t know him.

Ellen Samrock says:

June 5, 2014 at 8:12 pm

Shapiro and his constituents aren’t content until consumers have racked up a $400.00 a month bill streaming television wirelessly. And the Wheeler FCC is the enabler that will let them do it. This talk of increased competition and lower prices is pure fiction. The telcos control hundreds of megahertz of spectrum and we have yet to see any drop in prices, just the opposite.