Nielsen Finally Realizes That TV Viewers Are Cord Cutting, Calls It 'Interesting Consumer Behavior'

from the we-want-to-keep-an-eye-on-it dept

For many years we’ve written stories about the TV industry being in complete denial over cord cutting (i.e., getting rid of pay TV). The industry has denied that anyone was doing this, claimed that it was just a minor blip during a recession, suggested that when kids “grew up” they’d go back to subscribing to cable, and used a variety of other means of perpetuating their denial. Instrumental in this has been Nielsen, the TV rankings people, who is closely aligned with the industry in propping up the facade. So it’s pretty hilarious to watch Nielsen start to finally acknowledge that cord cutting is real, but to do so (1) so late into the game and (2) in such a condescending manner, that’s clearly designed to blast out the message to TV execs (i.e., Nielsen’s clients): “DON’T WORRY, EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE. REALLY.”

It’s true. Most people watch TV in their living rooms using traditional cable or satellite options. In fact, more than 95 percent of Americans get their information and entertainment that way. But as we explored what the other 5 percent are doing, we found some interesting consumer behaviors that we want to keep an eye on.

They treat it like they’ve discovered a brand new species, Contentus Withoutus, and it exhibits “interesting behaviors” which “we want to keep an eye on.” Interesting behaviors like… not paying $100+ per month for pay TV just so they can watch two channels? Perhaps.

This small group of video enthusiasts is tuning out traditional TV — and the trend is growing. This “Zero-TV” group, which makes up less than 5 percent of U.S. households, has bucked tradition by opting to get the information they need and want from non-traditional TV devices and services.

And there, right there, is the actual admission that those of us who have cut the cord and have no intention of going back are not a myth and are actually “growing” in numbers. Still, they describe us as having “bucked the tradition” rather than being part of a larger trend that is accelerating rapidly.

From there, the focus is on how those of us who cut the cord, still watch TV (i.e., “breathe, Mr. TV exec, they don’t all just hang out on Reddit talking to each other each day”).

According to Nielsen’s Fourth-Quarter 2012 Cross-Platform Report, the U.S. had more than five million Zero-TV households in 2013, up from just over 2 million in 2007. These households don’t fit Nielsen’s traditional definition of a TV household, but they still view video content. The television itself isn’t obsolete, however, as more than 75 percent of these homes still have at least one TV set, which they use to watch DVDs, play games or surf the Net. When it comes to video content, a growing amount of these households are using other devices.

All in all it’s a small admission, done in a condescending way in which they pretend this is some strange abnormal behavior, which needs to be observed but shouldn’t worry TV execs yet. This, by the way, is classic bad advice for those facing disruptive changing markets. “Oh, don’t worry about those people who have found something better and who are dropping your service in six figure chunks each quarter. We’ll just observe them and be ready to act later.”

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Comments on “Nielsen Finally Realizes That TV Viewers Are Cord Cutting, Calls It 'Interesting Consumer Behavior'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It’s far more worse then Nielson tries to make it look.

There’s others, like me, who watch the free over the air channels like CBS, NBC, etc, but would NEVER pay even $1 for cable or satellite channels.

I’m sure that number is far higher then the ‘pitiful’ 5% Nielsen acts like is no real threat.

Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile) says:

Re: Re:

We don’t pay for cable or satellite either. Any time we get questioned by phone or in the mall about switching to cable/satellite with the question, “How much to you pay for cable/satellite right now?” When you tell them zero the salesperson is dumbfounded. “What price would you pay for cable?” the ask. “The same price I am paying now,” I reply. “Well we can’t do that….Have a good day.”

I would agree that the 5% number must be low. I think they are conflating two types of people for misdirection. 5% of households fit their definition of “Zero-TV”. They never mention the percentage that still have TVs but no cable/satellite subscription, nor how those are changing. But if the number of people who have actually chucked their TV has doubled in six years…I could see cord cutters also increasing. Plus the new consumers moving out on their own into college or post graduation are used to doing things without subscriptions. There will be a vacuum.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Just as ditching landline phones it is also a question of convenience: If you have no tv when you move away from your parents, why should you use $1000 on a TV and a landline phone + $120 each month on it, when you can get everything on better and far more universally useful technology like a computer and a cellphone at about the same total price?
They live on forced subscription and on the availability of tv and landline in the places the young people move to.

I am too old to be a true cord-cutter and to live cheap I have to pay for tv to get as cheap an internet-connection as I get (yes it is cheaper than internet alone because it is a package deal for the area!). However, I don’t use my tv very often (it is 5 months since I last turned it on!) and I do not have a landline so an “interesting consumer behaviour” I express.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

However, I don’t use my tv very often (it is 5 months since I last turned it on!) and I do not have a landline so an “interesting consumer behaviour” I express.

I was having the same problem. I only turned it on for background noise while working on the computer or doing the dishes or other things, and I quickly realized my $92 I was spending on cable was really being a waste. After all, I could play a DVD which cost $15 once instead of $92 compounded over time. I cut the cable out and only had internet (which caused my internet cost to increase by $10, unbundled,) but I’d move to another ISP (come on Google Fiber,) in a heartbeat given the number of times in the last two weeks my internet has gone down due to unscheduled maintenance or problems (they always seem to want to upsell you to business class internet when you call about their crappy uptime, don’t they?)

Dan says:

Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 13th, 2013 @ 8:13am

I went to antenna to save $100+//month on garbage TV that is Comcast cable. I watched very little and my kids adapted very quickly to the basics. Funny thing is most of the 50+ Chicago air stations are better HD picture than cable and many of the stations are “pay” in the form of public Tv funded by tax dollars. I find those stations pretty good now.

No more cable!

Emilio says:

Re: More than doubled in 4 years

The longer they (the content providers) are living in their fool’s paradise, the better. Once they finally accept what’s happened, the faster they’ll find a way to shove in-program ads down the throats of Netflix et. all. I remember back when cable was still trying to achieve wide-spread penetration into non-cable households. One of the primary selling points was “add-free television”. The selling proposition was “It’s worth paying for television without all the ads”. That, of course is now a forgotten relic: you pay AND you get the ads anyway. With cord-cutting and making due with Netflix Watch Now’s catalogue of content, we’re temporarily back to “It’s worth paying to not have the ads”. As soon as Hollywood/Big Cable finally wake up, that ad-free Nirvana will vanish, just as it did 20 years ago…

Lord Binky says:

Re: Re: Re:

Netflix, no commercials, 3rd season of archer was released just recently. So what if their on their 4th season right now, the effort it takes to watch the shows I want, when I want, and where I want is so trivial, that they need a much better incentive for me than ‘being behind’ other people in MY entertainment.

Alaina says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

For the same price as Netflix streaming ($7.99/mo), you can get Archer (and a ton of other shows) during its current season on Hulu+. After I caught up with Netflix, I switched to Hulu+ and have never gone back since I don’t watch too many movies anyway. Of course I just torrent the shows Hulu doesn’t have. I haven’t had cable in about 4 years. Instead I spent a little extra for a better internet speed, which is still cheaper than cable TV!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

What initial point are you assuming?
I’m going to go on the assumption (hah) that there was no point since the question wouldn’t make any sense, since there is no point being assumed.

You mean: “it raises the question”.

And most of us have antennas and a subscription to Netflix. At least I do. I watch about 60hours a month on Netflix. I also own a collection of DVDs. Maybe you don’t know what’s out there besides cable?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Conflation, conjecture.


Again, irony not lost.

Shouldn’t you, the accuser, prove first that he watches tv, sport, movies, or cartoons?

And then that he doesn’t watch youtube, or hulu, or any other video service online that isn’t netflix.

And its not like there aren’t things like DVD players, OTA channels, and day-after streams from network websites.

What are you trying (and failing, I might add) to prove, again?

Did Mike turn you down for a date?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

That Hollywood-hating Mike Masnick probably pirates as much as he possibly can.

I’m far from the only person that considers this the safest assumption one could make.

Funny that I already answered you above and you’re still doubling down on this lie.

I do not pirate anything. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I do not engage in piracy. I do not have any “file sharing” programs on my computer. I don’t even have a BitTorrent client, though I have in the past (which was used for authorized content).

You keep making assumptions for whatever reason, but those assumptions are incorrect.

jupiterkansas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

What’s so funny about the library? I go to the library three times week and get all the music and movies and books I could ever want.

And judging the content on TechDirt, I’m pretty sure Mike spends most of his time online reading news and legal papers. I doubt he has much time left to pirate crappy television shows.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ooh, I want to join in on this. XBMC for me, either through the Amazon Prime plugin, the PBS Kids plugin, NASA channel plugin, etc.

Just in case: not a single one of my XBMC plugins connect to an unauthorized service. Every single one gets the videos directly off the authorized websites. For example, the PBS Kids plugin gets the videos directly from

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is also Walmart launching their online video streaming service.


Walmart!? really?

Aero is another player that is still alive and kicking.


Another major OTT force: video-game consoles like Xbox and PlayStation, which can also be used to watch streaming Internet video. ?They may be doing more business than anybody,? said Andy Tarzon, founding partner of the media research company TDG. ?Xbox is the leading viewer for Netflix content.? It will, soon enough, have its own content; parent company Microsoft late last year hired Nancy Tellem, a senior CBS programming executive who helped develop Friends and ER, to direct an on-line TV operation.

The use of programming services that deliver television program via the Internet is mushrooming, with Netflix, YouTube, Amazon and other big names ? even Walmart ? setting up or expanding operations. ?More than anything, that?s gotten everybody?s attention,? said Terence Gray, a longtime network producer who now runs the New York Television Festival. ?When you see YouTube?s $100 million investment in programming, or what Amazon?s studios did last year, or Microsoft hiring Nancy Tellem, this is no longer a conversation. This is being done.?

TV networks executives shake uncontrolabbly when they hear the sounds of OTB(over the box) word, network streaming, webseries and new companies that have nothing to do with TV actually investing millions of dollars to produce content.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

In my case:

Mostly Netflix, because it works so well.

We subscribe to Hulu Plus, but I find the implementation appalling. That’s not a remark about the content, but about how badly the application and the service work. The lack of an Android application for my phone, tablet and Google TV just add to my frustration. That’s what the legacy dinosaurs call “adding value” because to them frustration == value.

We are considering adding Amazon Prime.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

And it of course begs the question: How does your household (and Masnick’s) watch TV shows?

Mostly, I don’t. We cut the cord a few months after my son was born because we realized we just don’t have time to watch TV. And since then I haven’t missed it. The few shows that I have occasionally watched I’ve found were available on either Hulu or directly on the shows own websites (things like Daily Show and Colbert, for example). But, for the most part, I just don’t have time for TV any more. For a while we were renting DVDs from the local video store, but again, no time lately. Every so often I consider signing up for Netflix, but that whole “no time for TV” thing makes it less appealing.

Not sure why you make the assumption that everyone must spend allotted time watching TV.

sudont (profile) says:

Re: The 5%

Yeah, I’m with you. I just bought my first TV, (I’m 53 years old), but wouldn’t dream of paying for cable. Remember when the deal with cable was, you have to pay for it, but there were no commercials? They slowly snuck ’em in, and now cable has more commercials than network TV.
I use it for gaming, but mostly to watch video I’ve downloaded, or DVDs. I can’t tolerate the commercials.

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Hmmm. I was a very early adopter.

Me Too !!! Just like you I Cut my Cable Cord somewhere around 8 – 10 years ago.
All I wanted was the Scifi Channel and some Fiction Stations like Discovery,History, Science.

Told them I would even be willing to pay them for the privilege of Blocking the other channels.All I wanted was a reduction of sorts in my Monthly Bill.They would not work with me so I Cut That Cable and I will never go back.

Nielsen has ruined so many good intelligent shows ! Screw You Nielsen……….Guess it takes you MAFIAA Stooges a Decade to catch up to Reality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Allow me to finish that for you

Out TV has an internet connection built-in and runs a netflix app. This was partly responsible for our dropping our premium channels and signing up with (Canadian) netflix (yup, not the best, but still good enough for us)… We’re not cord cutters, we’re partial cord-cutters. Did Neilson count us?

I wonder when TV stations will get smart and start streaming their programming as it is broadcast, the way radio stations do? Or have I been missing something?

BTW, I suspect partial cord cutters Today will be complete cord cutters at some point not so far down the road, so not counting them is a dishonest study of the issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Allow me to finish that for you

The trigger for this happened just a short time ago, when Nielson announced that they were going to start counting the online views along with the broadcast views.
Up to now, stations were stealing views from themselves when they put something up online right away, which is a big deal to them because they wouldn’t have the Nielson numbers to show advertisers. That’s why Hulu normally has a week waiting period before they get the episode online.
With this new decision, they are now have the freedom to put stuff online day of and not lose a view.

ABC has already announced that they are planning on putting stuff up right away. It’ll happen more and more.

Tammy Burton says:

Re: Re: Allow me to finish that for you

You are on point. Only way for tv to keep viewers it has right now is to start streaming live at same time over air. Then they might actually keep viewers. Nielsen needs to be scrapped. It’s not accurate anymore and they need to switch to 4 season instead on 1. People are not hanging around during hiatus so they should shorten tv shows to 10 to 13 episodes and run them without interruption. Networks pay attention to cable stations.

Wolfy says:

When I mention not using a traditional tv, most people ask me how to view traditional TV content on the web. I usually point them to services like, and It’s clear that there is a growing number of people who are disgusted with the cable companies borderline thievery and do whatever it takes to “cut the cable”.

Lord Binky says:

Here?s something interesting for them to ponder that I haven?t seen brought up, and I doubt I?m the only one in this position.

I cut the cord, so now without cable/satellite I follow the shows I have a specific interest in, at my leisure and choice of time AND place. I am finding it troublesome to find new shows to watch, or keep up with anything that isn?t easily predictable. I don?t want to waste my time searching for when a season starts back up, or what day do I have to wait to see the next episode.

I got my time back from a bad habit and I like it. I?m watching TV as a whole less and less and I think it?s great, but how are they going to respond to that? How are they going to get me back or even keep my attention in the long run?

I no longer flip through channels finding something to watch, I don?t have a myriad of commercials telling me about new shows either, I don?t research TV shows, hell they don?t even make it simple (it?s so bad it has to be on purpose) to find out basics outside their TV centered ecosystem.

They?re becoming completely irrelevant faster than they know, and they may think they?ll have a second chance someday when I have kids, but the reality is that?s not going to happen without me still having the bad habit. I can?t say I care at all if these companies fail to keep up, because the only certain thing is someone else will be there to take the opportunity.

bjflanagan (profile) says:

TV Viewers Are Cord Cutting

Twenty years ago, when ‘The Player’ came out, we all laughed at the Hollywood exec who said they could do without actors, directors and writers.

Today, we call that “reality” TV, and, as has been said, it sucks balls.

Now, in the wake of Newtown, we have a sudden glut of turgid slime about psychopathic serial killers.

If it weren’t for Netflix, I’d put my TV out of its misery.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

i'm hatin' on the bastards...

…but can’t cut the cord because of SWMBO gots to have her glass teat ! ! !

have actually made *some* progress: want to downgrade our dish package, but there is ONE channel in the upper tier she *really* wants, but think i can get that either online or through hulu…

otherwise, it is ONLY sports that keeps us in the thrall of our Big Media monopolists…

for myself, i’m so pissed at Big Media, i would give up the sports on teevee and listen to it on radio… *THAT* is how much i hate on the bastards…

(in fact, since we just got screwed by our ISP when they got dropped from espn3/espngo/espnwatch/WHATEVER the fuck they are calling it this week, we can’t even get the online stuff anymore… fuckers: we HATE ALL OF YOU, but we have no choice for alternatives… the NANOSECOND we do, you greed monsters are his story…)

Big Media can go piss up a rope…

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

More Nuanced Analysis, Please.

Whoa! Why do they keep throwing around that “I” word? I do not use a television to get “Information”. That big screen is dedicated to Entertainment only.

And the only reason I’m not in the “cord cutter” group is that Comcast charges more for Internet alone than it does to bundle it with “Limited Basic” cable in my area. Do they have a metric for that?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: More Nuanced Analysis, Please.

And the only reason I’m not in the “cord cutter” group is that Comcast charges more for Internet alone than it does to bundle it with “Limited Basic” cable in my area. Do they have a metric for that?

This is me, too.

I’m willing to bet they do have a metric for that. My cable TV box isn’t even plugged in. I’m quite sure that their system tracks box usage at least to the point of knowing if they’re connected.

out_of_the_blue says:

Well, falling, but it's NOT going away entirely!

Seems that your notion is this portends imminent disaster for all of old-fashioned “teevee” when that form of non-interactive “entertainment” will hang on indefinitely, as radio has. I think that as usual, you’re casting this in the most extreme hyperbole you can come up with. They may want to officially deny it for the public (just an any large organization denies the truth, as in: we’re not going to kill US citizens in America with drones, no way), but this IS public knowledge.

NOW. What can we see from this about Nielsen and the whole field of advertising? — FIRST, IT’S ALL LIES! Nielsen and ad agencies have direct interest in promoting the myths and numbers, and so they lie. It’s hardly surprising, as Mike so often says. — 2nd, as I’ve been trying to get Mike to notice for, oh, at least 2 years I guess, is that advertising is DESPISED, and will be avoided whenever possible. The implications are immense.

But instead of speculating on the collapse of advertising, in effect Mike goes on as if “teh internets” are pretty much just another form of non-interactive entertainment and so advertising support will continue to work.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Well, falling, but it's NOT going away entirely!

“2nd, as I’ve been trying to get Mike to notice for, oh, at least 2 years I guess, is that advertising is DESPISED, “

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that maybe, just maybe, Mike realized something like that a loooong time ago. If I remember correctly, he’s written articles about it

“If the advertisements are too annoying and/or intrusive, people will go away and the value of that advertising drops. Any smart media property knows this, and actually works quite hard on keeping the user experience as good as possible, which quite frequently means pushing back against the desires of advertisers. “

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Well, falling, but it's NOT going away entirely!

@ “Rikuo (profile), Mar 13th, 2013 @ 8:48am

Re: Well, falling, but it’s NOT going away entirely!
“2nd, as I’ve been trying to get Mike to notice for, oh, at least 2 years I guess, is that advertising is DESPISED, “

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that maybe, just maybe, Mike realized something like that a loooong time ago. If I remember correctly, he’s written articles about it”

You ARE out on a limb there, fanboy, a short one that you sawed off between you and the tree: August of 2012, a mere 7 months ago, is well within the two years that I stated. So you prove that I tipped Mike to it.

In any case, it’s such a fundamental concern to his precious Google and the web in general that he should be focused on it frequently, rather than, say, on Prenda Law…

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
Prenda Law! A staple in the “At The Bench” series. Mike sez (short version): “Wow. Wow. Wow. … The story is gripping.”

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Well, falling, but it's NOT going away entirely!

So you prove that I tipped Mike to it.


How about this one? I mean he doesn’t exactly say “advertising is hated” but it’s about ad blindness, and why else would we ignore ads?

Anyway I don’t feel like trolling through the TD archives anymore just to prove you’re an idiot.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: UPDATE Well, falling, but it's NOT going away entirely!

HA! Am I prescient, or what? Already, Google begins to enforce viewing its advertising:

AdBlock Plus BLOCKED from Google Play

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
Mike will soon announce T-shirts that he personally silk-screens! Just $1000 each! — He’s selling REAL scarcity as only one in 20 come out legible!

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: UPDATE 2 Well, falling, but it's NOT going away entirely!

Reading more at The Register finds I’m doubly prescient!

eBay: Our paid Google advertising was a total waste of money

Take a loopy tour of! You always end up at same place!
All the news you saw last week on other sites, re-written to cherry pick points that fit Mike’s agenda.

Jeremy says:

Five Percent sounds waay low to me. I would guess it’s much closer to 10. They also seem clueless as to why this is when it’s plainly obvious that I don’t want another restaurant-recovery-reality show or a totally fake ghost-hunting show. The cost structure of paid TV channels was clearly not controlled during the fast growth years of the 90s, because it’s led to just loads of copycat crap being produced now. Only a few channels seem to understand the need to produce art for viewing, and then not that often.

Live sports is the only reason to pay for television, Nielsen’s own ratings should show this, but they fail to make the proper conclusion again.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re:

id say its probably a bit low and also doesnt cover people like me.
the girlfriend pays for the broadcast part of the bill and we split the internet part because i dont watch cable tv. we have one converter which is in her office and i only make use is online/OTA.

because of her insistence on having the broadcast service, i cant be counted as a cord-cutter…. now think for a moment how many people are in my situation? how many kids are in households that only touch the TV for their game console and/or media center and never watch the broadcast side from their provider? there is actually a lot of them out there and none of them get counted as cord-cutters.

Jake says:

Over two years now...

I dropped cable TV over two years ago and have no interest in going back. I still have Internet and I subscribe to Netflix and Hulu. If I need local channels, I get them over the air with an antenna. It’s taken a $130+ monthly bill and dropped it to roughly half. I still get the shows I want to watch and I get an extra $800 a year to play with.

chodelord (profile) says:

cancelled cable ~ 15 years ago

briefly had it back with a verizon internet and tv package a couple of years ago but very quickly canceled again

thanks to torrents we can get everything we want as soon as it is released, sometimes before

watching tv seasons one episode a night for two weeks is so much better than waiting months for it

and I’ve never seen a tv show that wasn’t available online within minutes of a broadcast finishing

if netflix would make a linux client I might get that but they don’t and i’m not bothering with windows just for one service

jilocasin (profile) says:

this cord cutter also a Nielsen family ....

We’ve long since ‘cut the cord’ at my house. Flat panel televisions used for, in order:
XBOX 360

Not too long ago I got a call from a polite Nielsen rep. asking if we would be willing to ‘be a Nielsen family’. I tried to explain to the nice lady that we don’t subscribe to cable TV, satellite, or even watch over the air channels.

That was a difficult conversation to say the least. Finally she settled on the line that all types of television watching people were important and if we could maintain some diaries for them anyway. In the end I said, sure why not.

The diaries arrived in the mail and the appointed week rolled around. I diligently filled them in.

[tv on – time], [tv off – time] channel watched – [none]

again and again it went.

In the notes at the end I reiterated that we have no, cable, satellite, over the air capability (even our internet isn’t through the cable company). There were no channels, because we don’t use our televisions in that way.

I sometimes wonder what they made of that info……

ralph says:

I dropped my pay TV subscription about four years ago. Five years before that I dropped my landline

Now I don’t have to listen to DISH tell me how it is someone else’s fault they have removed my favorite program from their lineup of a zillion channels I mostly didn’t want to watch. Even more annoying, they would remove popular without alerting customers about it; you had to find out about it by googling.

I have A LOT more freedom now. I watch exactly what I want when I want. My phone goes where I go.

I’m surprised that more people don’t do this. There are a lot of stupid things about the 21st—why not at least enjoy the good stuff?

ByteMaster (profile) says:

Interesting tidbit...

Most people watch TV in their living rooms using traditional cable or satellite options. In fact, [b]more than 95 percent of Americans get their information[/b] and entertainment that way

That’s what we’ve been saying all along: the copyright industry also controls the flow of information, but here you have Nielsen confirming it.

NoCable says:


I cut the cord about a year ago out of disgust for my cable company. The quality of there service was horrible so when my contract was up I dumped cable. I thought it would be tough but I have found to my delight that it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I set up a HTPC with XBMC installed and was amazed at the amount of original content available through add-ons that stream content from websites like Youtube, JustinTV, Etc.
I realized just how much I had been missing out on by restricting my watching to cable. It’s interesting that the quality and entertainment value of what I’m watching has increased but thanks to no commercials or wasted time channel surfing the amount of time I spend in front of the TV has decreased.

AndyD273 (profile) says:

Zero-TV definition

I would be really interested to hear what their definition of what a Zero-TV home is.

From the sounds of it, it’s not just a home that doesn’t have cable/sat, but also doesn’t have over the air, which makes a lot more sense given that 5% number.

The number that use both internet and over the air instead of cable is quite a bit higher if I remember correctly.

Nielson announced a good month or more ago that they were going to start counting internet tv services in their numbers such as Netflix, YouTube and Hulu, and some of the bigger networks like ABC are responding to the announcement that they are going to be putting their shows online day of instead of after a week wait because of it.

For lots of great cord cutting news check out Frame Rate on the TWIT network:
It’s one of my favorite weekly video netcasts.

AndyD273 (profile) says:

Re: Zero-TV definition

Here’s the info about ABC putting their stuff up online thanks to Nielson deciding to count online viewers:

This is better than a la cart channels. This trend will grow, and it will eat the cable companies from within, because all the sudden they will have to face a level of competition that they haven’t had to deal with since they got their regional monopolies.

It will be interesting to see what their response is to this threat.

Simple Mind (profile) says:

We Were a Nielsen Family

About a year ago I got the call to be a Nielsen. I asked them outright on the phone if I should fill in the stuff I watched on Netflix and online. The operator said “yes” without hesitation. However, the booklet they give you to fill out your viewing record is awkward for online stuff. I ended up watching it online but then saying I watched it during normal time slot (ie. lying) Netflix stuff I just didn’t report even though Netflix is about 50% of what gets watched here.

Anonymous Coward says:

I got teed off at constant reruns, poor programming, and expensive cable packages. When they changed over to digital, I dropped TV all together. Before that, I was using it for a dvd play back but with no outside input such as cable or over-the-air. When the changeover came for digital, I realized I didn’t use TV enough to justify buying another.

I’ve been TV-less for many years now. I don’t missed the stupid in those shows. I certainly don’t miss the commercials that both broadcasting and ad companies want to shove down our throats and find that my life has a much calmer tone with them missing.

I have no interest in televised sports, I get news and weather from the net. I have no intentions of putting another tv in my home.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not missing anything. No TV needed.

I honestly haven’t even owned a tv in over a decade now and the last one I had was used exclusively for console games. Figured out how to hook my console to an old lcd monitor and never looked back.

Any ‘shows’ or ‘movies’ I want to watch are available online, at any time I happen to be in the mood to see them. I pay for a few websites to improve my streaming access but my total internet and streaming bill comes to $51 a month and is a hell of a lot more versatile than any cable system ever has been.

Really, there it is a rather obvious decision.
100$+/month for arbitrarily scheduled oft repeated programming fraught with pre-empting for events I don’t care about. To say nothing of the 9-20 minutes worth of advertising per hour.
51$ a month for access to whatever I want, whenever I want to see it. Minimal ads, some of which are even targeted to me specifically rather then at demographics I have no ties to. Unlimited ability to pause, skip, rewind, replay. Plus everything ELSE the internet has to offer. I can even watch things on my mp3 player, laptop and phone, wherever I am. Visiting friends/family? I can access my accounts from any computer and keep up with or share what I’m interested in.

And I’m supposedly ‘missing out’. Yeah, Sure.

Lord Binky says:

When Nielsen bases their studies on ‘Nielsen families’, people that have cut the cord are not accounted for. How is it that anything short of ‘% of our Nielsen families have dropped out of the program citing some form of cord cutting’ be used to make a guess about consumer behavior?

It’s like when digital downloads were not counted in video game sales, so ‘sales’ went down but magically more money was made than what was being ‘sold’.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Another thought occurred to me

I used to consider cable TV to be the “premium” home video source. However, when I’m visiting people who have cable and sit down to watch something there, it now strikes me as the low-end (in quality, not price) way to get home video.

The video quality sucks, you can’t watch things on your own schedule, and oh, lord, the commercials are just painful.

Almost any other option is a higher-quality experience. And, I think, more and more people are realizing this.

ECA (profile) says:


WHAT is the USE’ of cable/sat?

its distribution. to get a signal around the country, without installing 10,000 Towers and power locations to send a signal.

Promise of CABLE, were LESS commercials, MORE SHOWS.. NEVER HAPPENED.

PROBLEM of CABLE/SAT..NATIONAL commercials, its hard to send Location specific Commercials. Your local bike shop cant send you a commercial. So you end up with Adverts for locations and shops that MAY(probably arnt) near you. Considering that over 3/4 of the nations is considered RURAL/Farming.

So, if you are going to watch 10-15 minutes of commercials EVERY HOUR, why are you paying for it?

When cable started, you got BASIC CABLE $20, then added packages $10 each…NOW, you pay for ESPN even if you dont watch it.. you pay for religious channels you may not want..You pay for SALES channels(even tho they SEEM to be free..You pay for music, Alt-language(Spanish/other)channels..And TONS of stuff that you Dont/wont watch..

WHY pay for something you DONT WANT to watch?

If you look at the Full listings, MOST(almost all) people watch LESS then 20 channels. And that is a HIGH selection. Many only watch about 10.

But, for all the infrastructure NEEDED to send a signal to EVERYONE in the USA.. wouldnt you think CABLE/SAT would be cheap?
LET them setup Antenna’s AROUND the country to get your advertising dollar. It will make TONS of jobs. Forget CABLE/SAt until they drop the prices.
I wouldnt mind $20 per month, for ALL the channels..

Anonymous Coward says:

Cable is living on sports, and will die by sports

Right now, sports is driving cable viewership (& TV for that matter), but the majority who don’t watch ESPN are getting tired of it. Over at Deadspin, they frequently post about a bubble in sports rights costs for the sports channels, and that a big bump in cable rates, like to the tune of 25%, is coming in the next couple of years, due to new sports deals.

For the less-sports-watching majority, I think this will be a tipping point, causing large numbers of these viewers to look at Netflix & other entertainment-only content options. A $150 cable bill is going to be a bridge too far, especially given the fact that the bump was due to a “sports tax”. The funny thing is that Deadspin commenters know they’re being subsidized by everyone else, but they always say that everyone else will just pay extra so they can watch all the sports they want to watch, cheaply. (Also, given the economy & programming quality, that 5% number is seriously understated, by a factor of 5 or 6, especially when you factor in household consolidation.)

Dean says:

Nielsen survey

We just sent our one week TV diary back to Nielsen. It was totally gated towards cable. No acknowledgment of over the air digital channels like a “27.3” Absolutely no instructions on how to code a show you watch on Hulu, from a website or Netflix. We had to call them to ask how to do that. Nielsen are in 100% denial that there is a different way to watch TV.

Anonymous Coward says:

Remember the half time locker room scene from the movie “Slapshot,” in which Strother Martin, who plays the coach of the not-doing-so-well ice hockey team, resplendent in his four inches too short trousers and white socks, paces in circles around the locker room, stops and bellows “We’re losing!!” Substitute a cable network executive for the coach. Now that’s funny.

kitty whiskers says:

Nielsen has ruined tv…..I use the internet and read books for entertainment……..hopefully Nielsen will go the way of the vcr and just fade away. I mean paper diaries in the age of the internet is just ridiculous…cable is awful and Nielsen gives timeslot credit when people aren’t even watching…hence crappy shows get to stay on the air. I hope one day they are all unemployed……

Bob F says:

Re: Nielsen

Kitty – a couple of things..
Full disclosure – I work in at the Network level.
More full disclosure – I probably hate Nielsen more than you.
Mostly die to sampling.
But –
Depending on where you live, Nielsen hasn’t used a paper diary in years. The major markets have been LPM (Local People Meter) for maybe 5 years. The way they work doesn’t allow a viewer to turn on a channel, leave the TV for hours and the channel to get credit for it.
Last year when Nielsen acquired Arbitron (Radio ratings), they did it primarily to get their meter technology which provides for measurement via encoded signal. Nielsen ois testing in select markets and plans to roll it out in the top 100 DMAs. It will also measure OTA and mobile tv viewing as well (mobile will be done through app technology)
The real reason Nielsen exists has little to do with programming of TV shows -it’s got everything to do with companies being able to make effective and efficient media buying decisions. As much as the some people may want to deny it, TV is still the leading media for creating brand awareness and purchase intent

Elliander Eldridge says:

Before I cut cable TV my favorite channels moved from “basic” to “expanded basic” in which I had to pay $50 more a month to watch them. I told them when I cancelled that if they wanted me as a customer again they would have to provide me with a way to have a plan where I can select just the channels I want and pay like that. I then purchased a streaming media box and I have been watching Netflix and Youtube ever since. I have to wait a bit longer, but since I only have to pay $10 as opposed to $100 and I get to watch the same shows I like at the times I want them why not?

Another thing I like is that streaming services have the capability of fully tracking viewing habits. I actually make money from advertising revenue on youtube so I can see what videos are seen when and how often and in what countries so that I know what content is popular in what isn’t. I don’t have to rely on a silly little sample size. I see it all!

As a viewer, I like to know that my viewing habits matter. When I watched a new show on Netflix they immediately renewed it because they knew at a glance what the viewing habits were,

For cable television to survive a few things need to change.

1.) Stop forcing people to pay for channels they don’t watch. Seriously. You can sell them in packages of channels that people get to choose, and you can offer better deals on the bulk packages you select, but but you can’t otherwise compete. Since everything is digital cable this is an easy thing to implement. You aren’t making more money by charging double. You are making LESS money by pushing customers away. If you do this you have a better chance to get them to expand their channels in the future.

2.) Outfit all new televisions with built in feedback. Allow the televisions themselves to act like Nielson hardware sending back viewing habits on EVERYTHING, not just a few, so that the stations know the REAL ratings are. If you bundle these televisions with a DVD that can be monitored by the same feedback system it would be able to monitor what shows are watched later, what ads are watched or skipped, and provide information that even a Nielson home just records as “The DVR Channel”. More importantly, this would help sell new television standards by campaigning on the promise to give every home a vote in what shows survive. Once you do this people will make a point to watch their favorite shows on cable TV even if the alternative is cheaper just because it makes them feel like if they don’t the show might be cancelled.

Or you can just go on like usual in which case it’s been nice knowing you, but cable TV will be extinct within a generation.

bobsyouruncle says:

You people are Amazing! Amazingly living in denial and a bunch of hypocrites. Where are all these free, no commercial prime TV shows on the internet? Ain’t nothing free without a hitch. Netflix and Hulu are both paid services, with Hulu you got commercials, Netfilx will eventually have them too. You can’t stop it, all online streaming will have ads and commercials. You are simply trading one form of Cable for another. If you’re going to cut the cord, cut the whole damn cord. People who say they cut the cord but are still watching TV on their computers, dvd players, online aren’t fooling anybody. Cable companies are are already heading towards online paid subscription, don’t think they won’t buy out everyone else and then you will have no option but to go through them. This so called “cut the cord” revolution is a joke.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Where are all these free, no commercial prime TV shows on the internet?

Who is claiming they exist?

You can’t stop it, all online streaming will have ads and commercials.

I see no indication that Netflix wants to introduce ads. One of their main selling points is there are no ads, they would be extremely foolish to throw that away, and they’ve demonstrated they are anything but foolish.

People who say they cut the cord but are still watching TV on their computers, dvd players, online aren’t fooling anybody.

“Cutting the cord” means canceling cable or satellite TV service. It doesn’t mean not watching any TV shows. You can cut the cord and continue watching TV via an antenna or online services.

Cable companies are are already heading towards online paid subscription, don’t think they won’t buy out everyone else and then you will have no option but to go through them.

You’re saying cable companies are going to buy Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and Google?

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