TV Ownership Down in America, Nielsen Says

A combination of poverty and technological choices may be forcing a decline in television sales

Kill your television? A growing number of Americans are choosing to do just that, according to the Nielsen Company.

Nielsen announced on Tuesday that TV ownership in the U.S. is down for the first time in 20 years, based on data gathered from the 2010 census.

According to Nielsen, the percentage of households with televisions has declined to 96.7, compared with the 98.9 percent from previous estimates in 2000.

In its announcement, Nielsen suggests that the reason for the drop is manifold.

First, Nielsen says, the transition to digital television in 2009 may have had an effect, with some percentage of Americans opting out of television altogether rather than update to a set with a digital tuner, shell out for a converter for their old set, or subscribe to cable.

Another factor, somewhat tying into the first, is the prolonged grim economy, with lower-income, rural populations in particular finding themselves increasingly unable to afford TV ownership.

On the other end of the spectrum, a small portion of the urban population is also contributing to the decline in TV ownership, choosing to go without paid TV subscriptions. This group may be a subset of a larger trend that Nielsen sees — that of consumers choosing to view content across a variety of platforms, including mobile devices and online.

Pat McDonough, Nielsen's senior vice president of insights and analysis, said that this last factor is leading the company to change how it measures audiences in the future.

“Nielsen’s cross-platform media strategy will allow us to measure all of this content and report the total picture of video consumption to our clients regardless of delivery method," McDonough said. "As the census data shows that we are a more diverse country, our measurements evolve to reflect our diversity and also to encompass all the ways that Americans consume media.”