For all the talk about cord-cutting in the digital era, movement in that direction is relatively slow, as many viewers switch from cable to satellite or telepone providers rather than drop multichannel service altogether. Nielsen reports that 98% of viewing remained on traditional TV in Q4 2011. Cable lost more than 2.9 million subscribers as viewers switched to telephone or satellite providers. U.S. homes subscribing to cable, satellite or telephone providers for their TV service declined 1.5% or about 1.5 million last year, according to figures Nielsen released this week. Subscribers adding telco (about 1.9 million) or satellite service (roughly 280K) weren’t enough to make up the difference.
Additionally, households with broadband and only free, over-the-air broadcast TV increased by 631K over the last year, climbing 14% to 5.1 million. Broadcast-only homes dropped 1%, to about 11 million households versus 11.15 million a year earlier, according to Nielsen’s Cross-Platform Report for the fourth quarter of 2011. Americans still watch a lot of TV. The average viewer watched 46 minutes less TV in the fourth quarter, an overall drop of 0.5%. Most of that shift is attributed to DVR use, which was up 12,3%, Nielsen says, but viewing of internet video, which is up 4.2%, is beginning to have an impact. Video game consoles have become a significant factor. More than 45% of US homes have consoles that can also be used to watch movies or internet video. Average time users spend on game consoles was up 30% in Q4 over the same period in 2010.