In the technology world, and indeed the world itself, there are a few immutable truisms. One of these is that pretty much everyone has a TV. However, research in America suggests that TV ownership is dropping.
Telly market saturation hit 100% decades ago. Today, you’d probably be hard pushed to find a household with fewer than three TVs.
But hold on a cotton-picking moment – what’s this news that reaches me from across the pond?
New research from Nielsen estimates that the total number of US households with a TV will drop from 99% to 97% in the next year, marking the first such decline for 20 years.
The recession or the internet
Apparently the blame can be squarely laid on the recession. While the price of flatscreen TVs is falling, it’s the cost of pay-TV subscriptions that are switching US consumers off. Not only is the cost of cable increasing, but low-income Americans – according to the New York Times – just ‘cannot afford new digital sets and antennas’.
So are these people simply giving up on television, throwing their analogue tellies in a skip and finding more rewarding forms of entertainment? The photos of old, discarded cathode ray sets being recycled that accompany the NYT’s article might suggest so.
However, muddying the waters slightly is a debate over whether US folk are giving up their cable TV subscriptions in favour of watching telly online. They may not own TVs, but they are still consuming programmes via broadband.
TV ownership in the UK
So will this trend transfer to the UK? Well this is only anecdotal evidence, but there’s a particularly high concentration of Sky dishes attached to council estate blocks in my corner of South London, just as there’s always been.
This suggests that even when faced with a deep recession, and the choice offered by the BBC and its arguably good-value license fee, things have to get pretty bad financially for people to start abandoning their satellite subscriptions, let alone give up on television entirely.
As for me, I very nearly grew up without a TV. My father, in the 70s, thought he’d surprise his new wife with a television to fill that vacant corner of the living room. Unfortunately, when the delivery man arrived, brandishing a box, my mother sent him packing, as there seemed no place or need in her life for such a device.
It was only after he’d double-checked the address, and drawn a blank with the neighbours that she reluctantly conceded that maybe the TV was for our household after all. Thirty years later, I think she still occasionally gazes at the box, when there’s ‘something on worth watching’.
How about you? What would make you relinquish the life-enriching power of your TV?