The television industry is worried about a growing new category called “Zero TVers.” Not to be confused with people who don’t watch TV at all, these viewers will watch programming. But not what’s broadcast or cabled onto a TV set. They watch on their computers or, instead of on huge HDTV screens, on their cellphones. Or they might have an HDTV monitor, but are content to watch old programming they rent via Netflix. Does this describe you?By Ryan Nakashima of the Associated Press:
Some people have had it with TV. They’ve had enough of the 100-plus-channel universe. They don’t like timing their lives around network show schedules. They’re tired of $100-plus monthly bills.
A growing number of them have stopped paying for cable and satellite TV service and don’t even use an antenna to get free signals over the air. These people are watching shows and movies on the Internet, sometimes via cellphone connections.
Last month, Nielsen started labeling people in this group “Zero TV” households, because they fall outside the traditional definition of a TV home. There are 5 million of these residences in the United States, up from 2 million in 2007.
Winning back the Zero TV crowd will be one of the many issues that broadcasters discuss at their national meeting, called the NAB Show, taking place this week in Las Vegas.
Although show creators and networks make money from this group’s viewing habits through deals with online video providers and from advertising on their own Web sites and apps, broadcasters get paid only when they relay such programming in traditional ways. Unless broadcasters can adapt to modern platforms, their revenue from Zero TV viewers will be zero. . .
The Zero TV segment is increasingly important, because the number of people signing up for traditional TV service has slowed to a standstill in the United States.
Last year, the cable, satellite and telecommunications providers added just 46,000 video customers collectively, according to research firm SNL Kagan. That’s tiny when compared with the 974,000 new households created last year. Although it’s still 100.4 million homes, or 84.7 percent of all households, it’s down from the peak of 87.3 percent in early 2010.
Nielsen’s study suggests that this new group may have left traditional TV for good. Although three-quarters actually have a physical TV set, only 18 percent are interested in hooking it up through a traditional pay TV subscription. .
The TV industry has a host of buzzwords to describe these nontraditionalist viewers. There are “cord-cutters,” who stop paying for TV completely, and make do with online video and sometimes an antenna. There are “cord-shavers,” who reduce the number of channels they subscribe to, or the number of rooms pay TV is in, to save money.
Then there are the “cord-nevers,” young people who move out on their own and never set up a land-line phone connection or a TV subscription. They usually make do with a broadband Internet connection, a computer, a cellphone and possibly a TV set that is not hooked up the traditional way.
Does this make video-watching more like reading, a matter of choosing something off the shelf according to your interests and tastes, and less like a mass medium? Is this development all to the good, or does it also represent yet another loss of communal experience that can help bind a culture together?