Tuning Out: TV Ownership Declines for First Time in 20 Years

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Television ownership is dropping for the first time in 20 years.

According to market researcher Nielsen, the number of TV-owning households in 2012 has declined to 114.7 million, down from 115.9 million in 2011. The overall number of homes with a set also fell by more than 2 percent, the first dip since 1990.

Whether the marked falloff represents the start of a permanent decline for television and broadcast networks in the wake of the growth of online video services such as Netflix, Hulu and Vudu remains open for debate. But Nielsen believes the falling numbers may be due to new digital TV needs, which require a set-top box to receive signals, overall pricing given the soft economy and a shift to online or mobile TV services.

Given prime-time viewers’ increasing range of options for enjoying favorite movies and shows, from streaming digital media to online websites and rental services, either way it doesn’t bode well for American Idol’s ratings.

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