Zero TV on the Rise

How about you?

LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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, the Nielsen Co. 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 U.S., up from 2 million in 2007.

Winning back the Zero TV crowd will be one of the many issues broadcasters discuss at their national meeting, called the NAB Show, taking place this week in Las Vegas.

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  • Phil Miller

    This would describe my house for the last two years. We still do get over-the-air local channels, but we haven’t had cable since we moved into our current house. We stream using a Roku box and get Amazon Prime and Hulu+ (although, I’ve even thought about dropping that and just using the free Hulu). We had Netflix for a little while, but there wasn’t much on there that we actually watched that we couldn’t get elsewhere. By getting rid of cable and our landline we’re saving over $120 a month.

    The fact is that we probably watch less than 8 hours a week of TV combined. But it’s nice to watch some of the shows from the Discovery Channel every now and then. The biggest thing I notice now when I visit some people is that there are a lot of them who have the TV on constantly. Once you live without it for a while, you get used to not having the constant chatter in the background.

  • Brian

    I’m a zero.

    While I like the Food Network and a couple others, I really had TV only to watch NHL hockey. In the end, it wasn’t worth the extra $40-$65 month (I worked out deals with DirectTV from time to time to get the bill closer to $40 rather than $65-$70)

    If there were “a la carte” options, I would pay more per channel for the ones I really want. In other words, I’d be happy to pay $20-30/ month for my local sports network & NBC Sports network in order to watch my favorite NHL team. Right now, that’s not an option but it should be and perhaps will be as more and more folks opt out.

  • In 11.5 years of marriage, my wife and I have never owned a TV. And we haven’t regretted it once. We highly recommend it.

  • scotmcknight

    J.R., but how do you know? 🙂

  • Phil Miller
  • RJS

    We gave up cable 6 years ago when we bought a new house and needed to be frugal. We get over the air channels and watch some things over the internet.

    I doubt if we’ll ever be “zero” – but I personally find time to watch very little TV.

  • We have lived without TV our entire married life, 23 years. We have a TV, but only watch movies on it. No cable, no antenna.

    I do see some TV some when I am at the Rec center working out and do have some favorites like NCIS. But I won’t pay for what the cable companies are selling. And even without a TV I still manage to find stuff to waste my time. I guess not being a sports fan helps. 🙂

  • Ann

    We gave up cable 5 years ago and haven’t looked back. We stream shows via Netflix and watch over the air TV as well. The only thing we miss is ESPN but have found there is usually a way to pay for games online or worst case… we invite ourselves over to a friend’s house if there is a game we just can’t miss.

  • John Mark

    Been a zero most of my life. My dad had a neighbor who began cable service in our community in the 1970’s (or early 80’s, not totally sure) who was pretty quickly a millionaire, and put all the people who had bought the original satellite dishes ‘out of business.’ Then, as we all recall, cable providers had absolutely no competition. I think cable is a rip-off, as are ‘dish TV’ providers, and hope they will be forced to do a la carte services at some point. I still won’t use them. 🙂
    I do use Netflix, and had a ‘welfare box’ (my sons name for it) to pick up a couple local stations, but don’t have that currently. May our tribe increase.

  • We gave up cable last year. The only real purpose for it was sports (MLB, NHL, NBA) and I just couldn’t justify the cost anymore. We use a Roku box for things like NetFlix, Amazon Prime, TED talks, etc. and an antenna for NFL and a select few OTA shows. I’ve definitely gone through sports withdrawal, but the symptoms are fading.

  • BradK

    I am also one of the Zero TV crowd. Can’t remember how long it has been since we had it, 2-3 years or so. Anything we want to watch, we find online. And most of that is watched via an iPad.

  • Greg

    Yup, gave up our Dish subscription a few years ago. We now just use Hulu and Netflix through our Tivo box which we got to record the Olympics. We’re considering ditching Netflix as well since we don’t cycle through the movies that fast and have a hard time finding streaming stuff sometimes.

  • Josh

    Been married 13 years and have only ever had TV access via antenna. The digital switchover made it difficult to watch all but a few channels (primarily PBS) due to poor signal reception (at least with analog, the picture was at worst watchable but fuzzy). I couldn’t afford cable or satellite if I wanted to (which I don’t). DVD’s and digital streaming for us through a discounted Amazon Prime account.

  • Terry Clees

    Sports keeps me plugged in…if it wasn’t for sports I would have no problem being a zero TV. With that said I don’t ever see me giving up watching sports so I guess maybe I’ll never be a zero!

  • Mike Bishop

    Became a “zero” two years ago. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and a $40 antenna with a boost amp in my attic. I’m into sports so that is a problem sometimes, but there are “ways” to watch sports online 🙂 Most of the good stuff I can get through my antenna…

  • mikeswalm

    my wife and i have never had cable or “peasant-vision”…we do watch netflix or rent movies from time to time. one of the major reasons is to prevent the constant and unrelenting intrusion of advertisement into our home. sure we still get web ads every once in awhile when they get past ad-block, but for the most part, we’re commercial-free at home. i hope some day our four kids thank us for it 🙂

  • Dana Ames

    I am itching to give up our dish. I’d like to buy a small computer to use only for TV watching, and figure out a way, whether with Roku or otherwise, to just watch the shows and events we want to watch. Husband does not quite have this vision yet, but he will probably get there when he sees the number$.

    The only way the cable/dish companies could continue to have my business is if they offered “a la carte” choices for a VERY reasonable price.


  • Chris Jones

    PBS keeps us plugged into the free, over the air signals and we need a TV to connect our DVD player to.

  • We recently “cut the cord” on satellite service (had it for ~15 years). For the few channels we watched, it seemed hardly worth it. And some of the fees, like $10 a month for HD seem absurd (maybe it made sense in 2004-2005 before it became the norm).

    We haven’t missed it and the $75 per month fee — though we do NetFlix and HuluPlus, each at $8 per month apiece. Plus Apple TV podcasts and streaming from other computers & tablets (via AirPlay).

    I do miss sports (not much anymore on free TV except the really big games), though the Apple TV can facilitate, NHL, NBA packages (~$100-200 per year).

  • Rudy Dirks

    My wife and I have been “zero” for about five years. We love having the time for other things. A couple of times per month we’ll watch a movie on-line or on dvd so we can choose what we watch without enduring commercials. It’s great to be free from channel-surfing, but internet surfing can easily become a substitute (like switching from one drug to another) so I’m not gonna be smug about it. The pervasive accessibility to the internet is one of the significant challenges for this generation if we want to avoid being indiscriminately overwhelmed by it like we have been by TV in the last generation. The beast is still there whatever the medium.

  • I love it. My viewing habits changed years ago when I read that the avg person, by the time they are 18 has seen something close to 25 000 acts of violence. The avg child, 2-5 old spends one third of his/her waking hours watching t.v. A teenager has spent 15 000 hours watching t.v. by the time he graduates, three thousand more than in school. If the typical young American lives to be seventy, he/she will have spent 10 years of 24 hour days in font of the t.v. screen. And then to NOW have to PAY for it??? So essentially I’m paying to give 10 full years of my life away??? I will NEVER go back to viewing t.v. like I use to. Glad to see this is happening.

  • Barb

    so tell me how to watch baseball and i might consider. we definintely could do without about 98 percent of what comes over the cable.

  • Ray

    We gave up cable a year ago, mainly for financial reasons. We only get PBS & CBS (patchy) by antenna (we’re rural). We have Netflix, but use that only sporadically. I suppose you could replace 3 hours of cable viewing a day with 3 hours of Netflix, but that wasn’t us. What we found was by removing cable, we were removing the propensity to just watch whatever was on at the time. Now we can be more selective about what we intake.

    The benefits of changing our viewing habits have far outweighed the cons. Its going to be different for everybody, and its also one of those things that you just have to experience before appreciating how much cable/satellite can easily affect your leisure time. It is very refreshing for me personally.

    When we had cable, I thought that I really liked to watch sports, especially college football. What I found after cable was that I could do without just fine. That in the end I really didn’t miss it like I thought I would have when I had cable. Again, personal experience, & it’s just something you have to try for yourself.

  • Scot and Phil –

    No, I am not “area man,” thank you very much 🙂

    A few additional thoughts:

    1. It was going to be a one year “experiment” to build good habits in our marriage when we first got married. It was marriage advice from some wise friends. But we found it easier than we thought that first year. Then each year after that we would look at each other on our anniversary and say, “Nah, we don’t need it. Maybe one day, but for now, we’ll go another year without it.”

    2. In the age of iPads and media putting films and videos online, we aren’t “zero” TV in the literal sense. We have a Netflix account and can watch shows on and occasionally.

    3. Sports are tricky. Though we don’t regret our decision, there are times where it is difficult (Saturdays in the fall with college football, March Madness, etc) However, there are (a) friends houses, making it a relational/communal experience, as well as purposeful TV watching and (b) sports bars, which can be fun (but not often).

    4. We are amazed at what happens when we are present – good conversations, reading more thoughtful books, playing more with the boys, being more active outside by riding bikes, going for walks, throwing the ball around the yard, etc.

    5. The motivating factor in not having a TV is NOT because of “religious reasons” as many people assume. (We don’t judge people who own a television either). There are many factors why we don’t have one: we are busy people and wouldn’t have much time to do it, if we don’t use it that often we feel we’re wasting money paying cable each month, there are other significant ways to spend time in purposeful ways, there is less ‘noise’ in the house (we like that), etc. But one of the more significant ones is this: nobody on their death bed has ever said “I wish I spent more time watching television.”

  • Randy Gabrielse

    We get 24 channels over the air with our antenna and get two Netfix dvds per month. We have not pursued cable, dish or computer television.

    Actually, back in the times before the digital changeover I suggested, and considered that all those people were condemning TV, whether as scandalous or as just worthless, had a perfect chance to put their viewing where their mouth was. My wife and I kept only our ancient dinasour tv and a $40 cable box, and only because we were too tight to dump the TV or make it a planter.

  • Scot, you ask on Facebook what this development will do to sports.

    Well, sports will be more about sports and less about spectators I guess.

    Not a bad thing, I think.

  • so tell me how to watch baseball and i might consider. we definintely could do without about 98 percent of what comes over the cable.

    Via AppleTV (~$99) or Roku box (~$60-80) – with a ~$120 yearly subscription to watch every game (exception of games in local market that may be blacked out but you can watch the replay). Or if you already have an iPad, you can have the games there.

    For minor league / college baseball, not sure if there is an internet solution.

  • Karen in AZ

    We “cut the cord” about 3 years ago. We got tired of the bills. We have a TV. It’s hooked up an antenna and a computer box. We can tape directly off the antenna to the computer and watch via Windows Media Center whenever we want. We also use the computer for Hulu (free) and Netflix. We also currently have Amazon Priime, so we can stream via that if we want. Plus, I have apps for the major networks, PBS and HGTV on my iPad. No more cable bills!

  • Rick D

    Our family’s love of watching sports has kept us in the “cable fold.” I think we could give it up if we could find an affordable way to get high speed internet.

    Those of you who are “zeros” – How do you get your internet access?

  • Dan

    A funny post. I love how proud Christians are about “doing without” something (not anyone on this site, of course). I think I remember seeing a top 10 list of things Christians use on other Christians. Closer to the throne for sure.

  • Jeremy

    Yep, we have a TV, but no connection. We use Netflix and station websites if we want to actually watch a show. It makes no sense to pay for it when we don’t use 99% of it (and the stuff we WOULD possibly watch costs extra on top!)

  • LisaH

    Rick D (#20), we get our internet from our local cable company, but only internet – no cable or phone from them.

  • Phil Miller

    We get our internet through a wireless service called Clear 4G. It’s not available everywhere in the US, but it suits us. It is not quite as fast as a cable connection would be, but it still works for streaming. So apart from our electrical service, we have no wires coming into our house.

  • Diane

    We went “zero” 12 years ago and never looked back. It’s been liberation, not deprivation. We watch Netflix projected on a movie screen in our basement. For the Superbowl, it’s a friend’s house or a bar. I think my mind has been cleared of the pollution of ceaseless propaganda, and I am grateful for it.

  • RobS

    OK, I’m the weirdo that added FiOS TV. Short story is, the bill for telephone and internet only went down by 30% for 1 year and they’re throwing in a gift card. They suggested even if I don’t watch TV it would be an improvement and after some fighting about self-install, I took the plunge for the cheapest thing I could get.

    But yes, the telemarketers are always surprised when you suggest you don’t pay for TV service. Many don’t understand free HD TV is available with an antenna as well.

  • “Winning back the Zero TV crowd will be one of the many issues broadcasters discuss at their national meeting, called the NAB Show, taking place this week in Las Vegas.”

    It seems that pretty much everyone hates their cable provider, it’s not the slightest bit surprising that so many people are just opting out. We would be a zero tv home except that my wife likes a few shows (like the voice) which I can’t find streaming anywhere.

  • zigwald

    ozcommtv is launching the ozbox in june. they pay for your hulu and netflix. plus you get 3D
    without glasses and lower electric bills.