The number of homes in the United States that receive broadcast television over the air has been rising steadily in recent years. Nielsen estimates that there were around 16 million such homes in mid-2018. That is 14.1% of households, or one in seven, up from 11 million or 9% in 2010. Among these, there is a small but growing group that supplement broadcast channels with multichannel online video services.
Nielsen estimates that there are about 6.6 million homes in the United States that only receive television over the air, representing 5.8% of households. They tend to be older, poorer and watch more broadcast television than average, with adults viewing an average of over five hours a day, compared to a national average of around four and a half hours. The median viewer age is 55. Around 58% of this group has internet access, but only 20% have an internet connected television, through a smart television, video game console or other device.
Then there are also those that complement television received over the air with subscription video on demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, often referred to as SVOD services. There are around 8.1 million such homes, or 7.1% of households. With a median viewer age of 36, these viewers tend to be younger and are more likely to be married with children. They watch less broadcast television, with average adult viewing of 1 hour 37 minutes day.
A third group of over the air homes is emerging that also supplement their viewing with a multichannel online video service, like Sling TV, DIRECTV Now, Sony PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV or Hulu Live, known in the trade as a vMVPD or virtual multichannel programming distributor. As of mid-2018, the last group amounted to around 1.3 million homes, or 1.2% of households. This group has a median viewer age of 38, with 48% of them aged 35-54. They watch relatively little television programming, with adults viewing for around 2 hours 21 minutes a day, although they spend another 1 hour and 20 minutes a day viewing through an internet connected device, like a Roku, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire or Apple TV.
So this relatively small but growing group of homes appear to have chosen to rely on broadcast television and a multichannel online video subscription, rather than a traditional pay television service. 28% of them have a household income of over $100,000 a year.
These numbers are are from The Nielsen Local Watch Report Q2 2018. Elsewhere, in The Nielsen Total Audience Report: Q2 2018, Nielsen reports that the number of vMVPD homes with a multichannel online video service rose from 1.4% of television households in June 2017 to 3.4% in June 2018. It says the percentage of over-the-air homes rose from 12.6% to 12.9% and says these are mutually exclusive. Go figure.
One might also note that at the end of 2018 Sling TV alone had 2.42 million subscribers, while DIRECTV NOW had 1.53 million. That is nearly 4 million subscribers and other competing services are available.
To put that in context, the top six cable, satellite or telco television services in the United States still have 74.32 million subscribers between them, accounting for 62% of all television homes.
The Nielsen numbers are from The Nielsen Local Watch Report and The Nielsen Total Audience Report: Q2 2018.