Household TV Trends Holding Steady Nielsen’s Economic Study 2008

Household TV Trends Holding Steady Nielsen’s Economic Study 2008

According to a new Nielsen study, household television and peripheral trends are holding steady, even though the uncertain economic conditions are affecting just about every household and consumer behavior across the country.  To determine whether Americans’ continued affection for TV and related entertainment might be impacted by the economy, Nielsen examined several household characteristics among its National People Meter sample for the five quarters running from Q4 2007 to Q4 2008.

During this period, households with broadcast only (i.e., no cable or satellite service) TVs declined from 11.5 percent to 10.9 percent while cable or satellite service has increased slightly from 88.5 percent to 89.1 percent.  This increase may be related to the upcoming transition to digital television that was originally set to take place in February 2009.

Satellite service grew modestly as well, from 28.0 percent to 28.8 percent.  Cable or satellite service with pay channels, such as HBO, Showtime and Cinemax, has grown steadily over the five quarters, from 47.0 percent to 49.4 percent.

Digital Video Recorders (DVR) have grown in popularity over the last five quarters, with 28.9 percent of households owning a device, up from 21.3 percent in Q4 2007.  20.2 percent of homes have one DVR, while 8.7 percent have two or more devices. Homes capable of receiving high definition television jumped from 12.9 percent on Q4 07 to 23.4 percent in Q4 08.  Video game console ownership increased from 37.8 percent to 39.0 percent, while homes containing personal computers with internet access increased from 70.9 percent to 73.8 percent.  More than 54 percent of households had one or two TVs, 24.9 percent owned three TVs while 20.8 percent owned four or more sets.

“At this point, we have no indication that economic factors are causing homes to cancel their cable subscriptions or cut back on DVR, HD, gaming or Internet capabilities.  These segments have remained steady – or in some cases, increased – over the five quarter period we studied,” said Pat McDonough, senior vice president of Planning Policy & Analysis at Nielsen.  “That said, one factor that may be masking any economic component is the digital transition.  It may have been necessary for some homes to invest in new equipment to prepare for the conversion.”

In terms of device usage, Nielsen found no significant increases or declines in TV viewing, DVR playback, DVD playback or video game console use, suggesting that the economy has had no measureable impact on these activities.

According to a separate Nielsen survey, the Home Technology Report, consumers continue to purchase new technologies for home entertainment.

Device Q4 2008 Q4 2007 Q4 2006
Plasma TV 18% 11% 7%
DVR 30% 25% 18%
LCD TV 33% 23% 15%
HDTV set 47% 34% 25%
Source: Nielsen Home Technology Report (2009).

The Home Technology Report telephonically surveyed 1,433 people in Q4 2008.