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Nielsen examines viewing habits in 'Zero TV' households

March 11, 2013|By Dawn C. Chmielewski
  • Nielsen released a new study examining viewing habits in what it calls "Zero TV" households, which use Internet subscription services like Netflix to get their video fix, rather than cable or satellite TV subscriptions. Above, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings demonstrates streaming video services for TVs and computers at a news conference in 2010.
Nielsen released a new study examining viewing habits in what it calls "Zero… (Mike Cassese / Reuters )

Measurement firm Nielsen has begun tracking the viewing habits of some 5 million American households that receive entertainment on Internet-connected devices and television sets.

It's a group Nielsen dubs the "Zero TV" households, though that fails to precisely describe this group of viewers who are mainly younger than age 35 and childless. The vast majority -- some 75% -- own at least one television, but these sets are connected to the Internet, not to a cable or satellite service. 

These nontraditional TV viewers surveyed as part of the latest Cross-Platform Report from Nielsen cited cost and lack of interest as the main reasons for not subscribing to a traditional pay TV service.

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It remains to be seen whether this group, referred to by some industry observers as the "never-connecteds," will forgo cable or satellite subscriptions as they age, buy homes and raise families.

"You do have to sit back and say, 'Is it a life stage? You're younger, you don't quite have the economic means. Does this mean you'll never get that traditional pipeline to content?' " said Dounia Turrill, senior vice president of insights at Nielsen Co. "That's a longitudinal look that we need to be aware of and we'll keep an eye on."

Nearly half of the "Zero TV" homes -- 48% -- watch TV shows through online subscription services like Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime. More than two-thirds say they get their video on a constellation of devices that include their computers, Internet-connected TVs, smartphones and tablets, Nielsen found.

Nielsen said last month that it would expand its definition of "television" households to reflect the new ways consumers get their entertainment, including measuring viewing on Internet-connected TVs in the home.

"Evolving the definition of the traditional television household is really critical at this juncture with the proliferation of content that is delivered to the home in different ways," Turrill said.

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