A new report from Nielsen says by next year, the amount of TVs owned by Americans will decrease from the previous year for the first time in 20 years.
The 2012 Advance/Preliminary TV Household Universe Estimate found the estimated percentage of U.S. homes with a television set declined to 96.7 percent from 98.9 percent last year. The last such decline, according to Nielsen, was in 1992. The report also estimates the number of TVs will be 114.7 million in 2012, down from 115.9 million in 2011.
Nielsen pointed to several reasons for this decline. For one, the introduction of several video viewing platforms has made the TV is less integral to consuming video than it used to be. Nielsen specifically points to a set of younger, urban consumers going without paid TV subscription -- cord cutters -- as an example of people going without televisions entirely.
The media marketplace continues to evolve and become more complex. Some consumers are clearly being driven by the economy to make choices on the media devices they purchase. Others are expanding their equipment to add more audio/video devices to their home. Still others may be deferring a TV purchase or replacing their TV with a computer, said Pat McDonough, Nielsen's senior vice president of Insights and Analysis, in a statement.
However, Nielsen does say more people are buying these new platforms, such as smartphones, tablets, Internet TV adapters or video game consoles with Netflix and Hulu integration, in addition to TVs. But it says the growing number of cord cutters could mean the start of a larger shift to viewing online and on mobile devices, part of an existing shift to digital broadcasting.
It is worth nothing that for the first time Netflix, a popular source of video content for cord cutters, passed Comcast in the number of subscribers this past quarter. Comcast, the biggest cable TV provider in the US, had 22.8 million subscribers at the end of 2010. Netflix, in its last quarterly earnings, said it had reached 23 million subscribers.