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Broadcasters Nervous Over Rise of 'Zero TV' Households

The amount of "zero TV" households is rising and has many broadcasters worried that it will continue to grow.

The phrase refers to households without cable and satellite television service. They instead watch television online through sites like Hulu and Netflix. 

Currently, there are five million households with no television service in America, a number that has risen from two million in 2007.

Nielsen Co. came up with the name "zero TV" households because they require their own category, as they are falling outside of traditional definitions of a television home.

In a national broadcasters meeting called NAB, many will discuss the zero TV group and address it as one of their main issues. 

And it is quite a big issue, as broadcasters only get paid when they relay shows and movies through traditional ways. Show creators and networks, on the other hand, don't have to worry as much, as they are still paid through deals with online video providers and advertising on websites and apps.

"Getting broadcast programming on all the gizmos and gadgets - like tablets, the backseats of cars, and laptops - is hugely important," Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, said. 

While there are 130 television stations broadcasting live signals to mobile devices, not many people know about them or have the tools to make them work. Many phones require an add-on device to retrieve the signals.

But even if more people knew about the add-on, it is unlikely they'd be willing to purchase it as they already seem to have everything they need with Netflix, Hulu and similar sites. 

Jeremy Carsen Young, a 30-year-old graphic designer, said he will probably never purchase a cable package. He has a working antenna sitting on his back porch, unplugged.

"I don't think we'd use it enough to justify having a big eyesore on the house," he said.

He is currently subscribed to Amazon and Netflix, costing him a total of $15 a month combined, significantly less than even the cheapest cable package would cost him.

Though a traditional television setup would allow him to watch up-to-date shows, he said he is fine with being behind on his episodes, which are often uploaded online much later than when they originally air on television.

Even when his friends accidentally spoil the ending of an episode or series, he is not worried.

"By the time it gets to me to watch, I've kind of forgotten about that," he said.

Cynthia Phelps, 43, said she has been TV-free for the last 10 years and doesn't expect to go back to cable anytime soon.

"I feel absolutely no social pressure to keep up with the Joneses in that respect," she said. "I don't want someone else dictating the media I get everyday. I want to bin charge of it. When I have a TV, Im less in control of that."

Sources: Vancouver Sun, Biz Journals


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