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Nielsen: Over 8% of the over-the-air homes subscribe to a virtual video provider

As cord cutting proliferates, the number of homes with over-the-air antennas continue to grow, with more than 8% of those households now subscribing to a virtual multichannel video programming distributor.

According to Nielsen Holdings PLC, some 16 million U.S. households were without a traditional pay TV service as of May 2018. Within that group, 1.3 million homes or 8.1% subscribed to lower-priced video packages offered by DISH Network Corp.'s Sling TV and AT&T Inc.'s DIRECTV NOW, among others.

As consumers cut the cord to reduce monthly bills and many younger adults have never subscribed to traditional video bundles offered by cable, satellite and telco providers, the number of over-the-air, or OTA, homes reached 16 million in May 2018, up 45.4% from 11 million in the second quarter of 2010 and 33.3% from 12 million in the second quarter of 2014.

According to a Nielsen TV panel, 59% of OTA households have access to subscription video-on-demand services from the likes of Netflix Inc. or Hulu LLC, with many pairing an SVOD package with broadcast channels they are watching via an antenna. The panel found that 41% of OTA households do not have access to SVOD offerings.

Justin Nielson, an analyst at Kagan, a media research unit within S&P Global Market Intelligence, is not surprised by the ratio of OTA homes that lack access/connectivity to add on an SVOD product.

OTA homes, he said, tend to over-index toward being older and less affluent. "You're talking about skewing toward lower-income households living in rural areas. Many don't have access to broadband or [are] not necessarily inclined to pay for an SVOD package," he said.

Geographically, the Southwest has the highest concentration of OTA homes, at 19% on average. The region is home to a large number of Hispanic families, a group that Nielsen found to be 48% more likely to be an OTA home than the average U.S. household.

Phoenix, Nielsen's 12th-largest designated market area overall, topped the list of tracked local markets with high rates of OTA households. Nearly 25% of households in Phoenix watch TV programming without a cable, satellite or telco provider. Of those, 8.4% of households watch TV through an antenna, while another 15.6% subscribe to an SVOD service and 0.9% have a skinny bundle.

Dallas, the fifth-largest DMA® overall for Nielsen tracking, was second with 23.1% OTA households.

Pay TV packages were far more popular in the Northeast, where only 7% of households have OTA access. Nielsen said the region also had the lowest level of OTA growth. Among its locally tracked markets, Nielsen listed Boston and New York as the lowest OTA markets, at 4.9% and 6.0% of households in each respective market.