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OTA Programming Surges as Broadcast Consumption Diversifies

New data from Nielsen finds over-the-air (OTA) programming users have increased by nearly 50 percent in less than eight years to create a new era of broadcast consumers.


Kind of like the renaissance happening in consumer audio with vinyl LP sales steadily growing, over-the-air (OTA) TV programming is once again a popular medium. 

In another case that proves what is old is new again, newly released numbers from Nielsen finds there are more than 16 million U.S. homes or just over 14 percent of U.S. homes that utilize OTA programming. 

Nielsen says that since 2010, the number of OTA users has increased by nearly 50 percent, and as part of the increasing use of OTA broadcasts more consumers are taking an “a-la-carte” approach to their television content.

OTA Doesn’t Mean Rabbit Ears and Aluminum Foil 

Nielsen says OTA homes of today aren’t what they used to be. According to the company, modern OTA users fall into three groups that each consume TV content in different ways. 

“Some are standard OTA homes that access programming with a digital antenna, but most pair their OTA lineup with streaming services,” the research company comments. 

“As of May 2018, 41 percent of OTA homes are traditional, without a streaming service provider. That means the majority subscribe to a streaming service [59 percent].”

Related: Samsung Promotes HDMI 2.1, Big Screens, New Features As 2019 4K, 8K TV Lineup Hits Retail

Nielsen states that between these groups there are age gaps and differences in ethnicity and income. 

Moreover, elaborating on the third group, Nielsen says this segment of OTA users subscribe to a virtual video multichannel programming distributor (vMVPD), which are known as “skinny bundles” to get access to cable programming. 

This group falls into the streaming service group, and as of May 2018, they accounted for 8 percent of OTA or about 1.3 million homes. 

A Closer Look at OTA Homes 

Putting aside the “skinny bundle” group of consumers, the two main groups of OTA homes are the ones that don’t subscribe to streaming services (41 percent), and the majority (59 percent) that supplement their OTA reception with streaming services. 

Some of the differences between the non-streaming and streaming OTA homes include:

  • The age of on-streaming video on demand (SVOE) OTA homes is 55-years-old. SVOD OTA home age is 36-years-old
  • 52 percent of the streaming OTA homes are married, compared to 28 percent of the non-SVOD homes 
  • Aligning with the married statistic, 49 percent of the OTA homes that also stream, also include children, versus 27 percent of the non-streaming OTA homes with children
  • The median income of homes that stream more than doubles non-streaming OTA homes at $44,500 compared to $21,000

Nielsen adds that OTA homes spend roughly three hours a day watching broadcast content or approximately 1,100 hours per year. 

Those numbers can be deceiving. Neilsen says that within those numbers, the non-streaming OTA homes spend nearly five hours watching TV each day.

Numbers vary for the other groups that have access to the Internet, but Nielsen says that SVOD homes with and without skinny bundles still watch TV for more than one hour per day. 

About the Author

Robert Archer
Robert Archer:

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons and Brazilian jiu-jitsu at Binda Brazilian Jiu Jitsu; both schools are located in Haverhill, Mass.




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