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Cord cutters alert: 60 million Americans now use an antenna to watch free TV

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Antennas aren’t just for grandma’s boob tube anymore: 19.3 percent of all US TV households get their TV fix from free over-the-air broadcasts, according to a new GfK study released this week. This means that 22.4 million households representing 59.7 million Americans get their TV for free, the market research firm estimates.

The number of these over-the-air only households is growing: In 2010, only 14 percent of all households were getting their TV this way. Growth is especially strong amongst younger households, lower-income families and minorities. And once you take a closer look at those audiences, it’s really clear that free over-the-air viewing isn’t an oddity anymore, but something that’s gathering momentum quickly.

GfK estimates that minorities make up for 41 percent of all antenna households. Especially mind-boggling: The majority of Latino households that primarily speak Spanish now use an antenna to get their TV programming, with only 49 percent of those households subscribing to a pay TV service. Also notable: 28 percent of all households with a head of household under the age of 35 use an antenna instead of a pay TV subscription.

The folks at GfK are careful not to lump all of these households into the Netflix-loving, (s NFLX) always-streaming cord cutting category, instead pointing out that cost and not online access has been the primary factor for people to give up their pay TV subscription. But even with that caveat in mind, GfK is estimating that 5.9 percent of all TV households have cut the cord, and that one in five young households never bothered to get a TV subscription to begin with.

11 Responses to “Cord cutters alert: 60 million Americans now use an antenna to watch free TV”

  1. Dja SaTx

    I use OTA with TiVo, and have an Amazon Prime & Netflix account. Total cost is $30 monthly. And since Netflix and Amazon pretty much have the same stuff, I may drop one of them very soon.

    • I’m with Dja. I have the same set up and did it primarily for the cost savings. My family and I still enjoy some specific network programming.

      I do wish there were an alternative to TIVO’s monopoly on non-PC based DVR’s. I only paid $100 for each of my TIVO boxes (I have two) but the $15/month per box service fee is about double what I’d like to pay. I’ve seen this new device from Simple but I’m going to wait for more users to try it out before I dip my toe in that one.

  2. spixleatedlifeform

    How is it that every time one of these articles come out it is never mentioned that when talking about internet TV there is a void of connection speeds sufficient to actually view video without constant buffering, lack of synchronization of sight and sound, issues of copyright (and the threat of lawsuit upon the viewer) and a host of other issues UNLESS one has cable internet? DSL is too slow unless one lives next door to the phone exchange. And as far as dial up goes, forget about that; video is dead on that venue. The primary cause is the codec now used. It’s unnecessarily bloated–and deliberately so, all with the intent of forcing people to subscribe to cable, either as a bundle or as a stand alone product. As a stand alone product it is more expensive than any bundled package and there are so many other restrictions to say nothing of strict monthly data limits. It’s a conspiracy brought to us by those who had the monopoly on downloading video as opposed to streaming–they are NOT the same thing!


    • Kevin Horne

      Yes, it’s a shame the author conflated antennas and cord cutting. But then without “cord cutting” in the headline, there would have been 50% fewer clicks/readers…

  3. Less than 20% of the whole nation uses over-the-air broadcast? I guess I really know nothing about our nation, I always imagined that number to be closer to 80-90%.

    This brings up so many questions….