The number of viewers getting their broadcast signals exclusively over the air is up 17.4% to a total of 53.8 million since last year, according to a study released on Monday.
That means that 17.8% of U.S. TV households, or 20.7 million, now rely on over-the-air reception to view broadcast TV signals, said the study by GfK Media.
In addition, 6% of U.S. TV homes, or 6.9 million, have now canceled pay-TV service. The vast majority, or more than 70%, cited cost-cutting as their motivation for pulling the pay-TV plug, while 20% cited the availability of online viewing options, said David Tice, a GfK Media senior vice president, in a blog about the study.
"The real test will be when -- or if -- the economy picks up; then we'll see if people maintain their broadcast-only status," Tice said in the blog.
“Contrary to conventional wisdom that broadcast TV is on the decline, this research shows that there’s resurging interest in over-the-air TV viewing,” Dennis Wharton, an NAB spokesman, told TheWrap. Wharton also told TheWrap that NAB did not commission the study but is a client of GfK Media’s.
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A spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association had no comment.
The study is important to broadcasters because it gives them ammunition to fight the effort of federal regulators to take additional spectrum away from broadcasters.
Also according to the study, younger adults and minorities are more reliant on over-the-air TV reception than the general population. While 24% of homes headed by a person aged 18-34 are broadcast-only, 17% of homes headed by a person aged 35-49 are similarly situated, the study said.
In addition, the study said that minorities now constitute 44% of broadcast-only homes.