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Broadcasters worry about ‘Zero TV’ homes

April 7, 2013 • Business


This undated image provided by James Weitze shows a truck driver taking a self portrait on the road. Weitze satisfies his video fix with an iPhone. He sleeps most of the time in his truck, and has no apartment. To be sure, he’s an extreme case and probably wouldn’t fit into Nielsen’s definition of a household in the first place. But he’s watching Netflix enough to keep up on shows like “Weeds,” “30 Rock,” “Arrested Development,” “Breaking Bad,” “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Sons of Anarchy.” (AP Photo/James Weitze)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills.

A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service, and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections. Last month, the Nielsen Co. started labeling people in this group “Zero TV” households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the U.S., up from 2 million in 2007.

Winning back the Zero TV crowd will be one of the many issues broadcasters discuss at their national meeting, called the NAB Show, taking place this week in Las Vegas.

While show creators and networks make money from this group’s viewing habits through deals with online video providers and from advertising on their own websites and apps, broadcasters only get paid when they relay such programming in traditional ways. Unless broadcasters can adapt to modern platforms, their revenue from Zero TV viewers will be zero.

“Getting broadcast programing on all the gizmos and gadgets — like tablets, the backseats of cars, and laptops — is hugely important,” says Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters.

Although Wharton says more than 130 TV stations in the U.S. are broadcasting live TV signals to mobile devices, few people have the tools to Login to read more

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