The 2012 edition of Nielsen's "Television Audience Report" finds that the total number of U.S. households with TV sets declined year to year for the first time since 1992.
Also, the number of households with no television at all is at its highest level since 1975 — with 3 percent of homes TV-free. Nielsen also estimated that while the number of TV households in the U.S. with at least one TV set is currently about 115.9 million, that number will decline to 114.7 million in 2012. That's a decline of almost 1 percent at a time when the total number of U.S. households continues to grow.
However, those that watch TV are watching more of it. The study found that homes with three or more TV sets (56 percent) spend a record 59 hours, 28 minutes of TV watching per week. Also up are the number of DVRs, which Nielsen estimates will be in 41 percent of homes in 2012, digital cable (51 percent) and HDTV (67 percent).
Perhaps less newsworthy, the VCR is on the way out, Nielsen's data found. It was in 90 percent of homes seven years ago, but now is in only 57 percent of households and continues to fall. Another technology that is falling is the DVD. Households owning DVD players is expected to decline slightly in 2012, to 85 percent, down from a peak of 88 percent of homes. It is an early sign that streaming services like Netflix are beginning to hurt media sales and rentals.
Nielsen found that cable and satellite TV have not fallen, despite claims of cord cutting. Pay TV is in 90 percent of homes, versus 10 percent of homes still using rabbit ears.