Study: Broadcast-Only Homes On The Rise

Research by GfK shows almost four in 10 homes with an 18-34 year-old resident rely on broadcast-only or Internet-only alternatives to cable or satellite.


New findings from market research firm GfK show that U.S. TV households are embracing alternatives to cable and satellite reception. Levels of broadcast-only reception and Internet-only video subscriptions have both risen over the past year, with fully one-quarter (25%) of all U.S. TV households now going without cable and satellite reception.

The research, from GfK’s 2016 Ownership and Trend Report from The Home Technology Monitor, shows that 17% of US TV households now rely on broadcast-only (aka “over-the-air” or OTA) reception, up from 15% in 2015. Another 6% say they only use Internet services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or YouTube and do not have traditional broadcast or pay TV reception at all; this compares with 4% a year ago.

The study found TV households with a resident between 18 and 34 years old are much more likely to be opting for alternatives to cable and satellite; 22% of these homes are using broadcast-only reception (versus 17% of all US households), and 13% are only watching an Internet service on their TV sets (versus 6% of all TV homes). Overall, 38% of 18-to-34 households rely on some kind of alternative TV reception or video source, versus 25% of all homes.

On the other hand, households with at least one resident age 50 or above have higher rates of subscribing to cable or satellite services. More than eight in 10 (82%) have some sort of pay TV subscription, versus 75% of all US TV households. The difference comes almost exclusively in levels of cable subscription, with 46% of 50+ homes paying for cable reception, compared with a US average of 41%.

“The fact that a statistically significant increase in broadcast-only reception occurred over just one year may be further proof that the cord-cutting/cord-never phenomenon is accelerating,” says David Tice, SVP in GfK’s Media & Entertainment practice. “If you include homes that have no TVs at all — about 3% of all households — then less than three quarters (73%) of U.S. homes continue to have pay TV service, with the attendant implications for all stakeholders – not just the pay TV services themselves, but also networks, content providers, and advertisers.”

Broadcast-only reception is more common in TV households earning under $30,000 per year (26%, versus 17% among all TV homes) and those with Hispanic residents (24%). Households with incomes of $50,000 a year or more post higher levels of satellite subscription — 27%, compared to an average of 21%.


The new study, part of GfK’s The Home Technology Monitor report series, was conducted among 3,009 US  households, including representative levels of non-TV, non-internet, cell-phone-only, and Spanish dominant homes. The report shows levels of ownership and subscription for dozens of media-related devices and services, with trends back to the 1980s in some cases. Topics covered include ownership of: 

• Television sets, TV-connected devices, internet-connected TV sets, and pay TV service.

• Mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and satellite radio.

• Computers, online service in the home, and subscription to digital video services.

In response to the study, NAB EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton, said: “The GfK survey demonstrates once again the enduring value of local and network broadcast television. It’s particularly noteworthy that millennials are now more reliant on broadcast TV than any age group. Clearly, the Internet has had a major impact on how Americans receive program content, but GfK confirms that broadcast television remains remarkably resilient and growing in popularity.”


Comments (168)

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Ellen Samrock says:

July 13, 2016 at 6:37 pm

Well, so much for the 10-15% crap the FCC and a few others here like to throw around. Let’s hope these latest figures will put that nonsense to rest.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    July 14, 2016 at 1:22 am

    GfK number is bogus. Unless you accept that every MVPD is lying to SEC and paying out fees for subscriber households that don’t exist. As MVPDs don’t like to pay out money, I doubt they are inflating their sub numbers and paying more than they otherwise would.

Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

July 13, 2016 at 6:45 pm

Right… because 17% is so much higher than 15%…

    Ellen Samrock says:

    July 13, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Yep and it gets better. Among those 18-34 year old, 22% are over the air only. Glad you’re seeing the light out of that Smoky Mountain haze you live under.

    Timothy Dickey says:

    July 14, 2016 at 10:43 am

    Don’t forget that a third of 18 – 34 year olds live with their parents, who are the ones who have the cable/satellite subscription. IF they ever move out, they would likely increase this rate as well.

    Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

    July 14, 2016 at 10:56 am

    That is a fascinating figure, actually, provided it’s accurate. What happens when those folks get older? Do they stay content with OTA and OTT?? Will they never develop a desire from programming they didn’t grow up with? That’s something the broadcast industry should figure out.

    Ellen Samrock says:

    July 14, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Another interesting point is that the highest number of pay TV subscribers are consumers over 50. So not only is pay TV slowly dying but so are those who rely on it most (sorry AARP). One point that was not studied are the number of households with second TVs (in bedrooms, kitchens, etc.) that receive terrestrial TV signals. I personally know of two such households and I’m sure there are many like that. This would be an interesting statistic have.

Jeff Groves says:

July 14, 2016 at 12:40 pm

It’s CHEAPER to procure programming on home video (It’s less than HALF what a Pay-TV subscription costs in my area) than it is to get it on cable/satellite TV, and there are NO COMMERCIALS (It’s gotta be HELL out there with all of the political propaganda out there) to infest what you are watching. It’s been 9 1/2 years since I “cut the cord”, during my birthday next month the number of TV shows on home video (That’s DVDs, Blu-Ray and old-fashioned VHS for those of you in Rio Linda!) will surpass the 1,000 mark!

Veronica Serrano Padilla says:

July 14, 2016 at 2:03 pm

Also from the study, note the number of people who use internet streaming only with neither OTA or pay TV in the mix rose 2% since last year.

Ben Gao says:

July 14, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Once my Millennial realized that he could get 17 TV stations for free OTA, he was sold on an antenna- as well as his ole man (me). I was okay with cable for 24 years until it broke thru the $99 ceiling, and that’s when I totally put the kibosh on it. To me, having a landline phone for $20 is more important than paying $109 a month for cable. Now the ‘cable company’ has changed their name to ‘Broadband’ and subsequently put data caps as my ISP AND raised the prices – oh but it’s faster now, so you can get up to your cap so much quicker now.

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    Lol. No caps yet or faster speeds of lat, but they keep raising my Broadband about $4 every year. Own my own modem and router so no rental. Just price increases each year. Kink of like Cable TV.

Robert Vincent says:

July 14, 2016 at 7:19 pm

Hlyliar is going to have the misfortune to be the president when many of the rural stations go off the air and stop servnig mostly the conservative voting base. People in the big cities who vote liberal won’t really be affected. Well, the Black viewer who does not have cable or dish will be affected and will somehow blame Republicans but Democrats were in power in the oval office when the reverse auctions happened. It will be interesting to see how it pans out at the voting booth in Hlyliar’s first midterm elections. I have enjoyed not paying for umbilical services and going OTA many years ago. Right now I have an ATSC receiver that also has a DVR port for a thumb drive. I bought a 4 Terabyte drive to hold all of my programs. Since we get Thistv, MeTV, Antenna TV and Get TV, I have recorded a lot of movies that I will watch when there’s no programming on that i like. Then I do have Netflix, which so far fills the gaps. Now I was a charter Dish customer when they sent you a box with the dish and receiver. You used the compass to point it and find the 117 bird as that’s all they had. Then they added the 110 bird and I still did my own alignment. But costs kept going up and i went to Direct. Then cost went up where I just finally gave it all up.

    Darrell Bengson says:

    July 18, 2016 at 9:42 am

    I get 29 different OTA Stations (including Canadian stations) and so can everyone else in this area. Why anyone would pay over $100 (the average cable bill) for mediocre cable programming when most of it is utter junk is past me. No wonder the local cable subscriptions are dropping.

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