it comes to television viewing, what’s old is new
again as an increasing number of Americans are dumping
their cable boxes and going totally retro.
right, the tried-and-true TV antenna — just digitally
enhanced and minus the goofy bunny ears — is having a
moment in the spotlight as people search for cheaper
replacements for their cable and satellite TV packages.
fact, since 2013, the percentage of broadband households
in the nation using only antennas to watch linear TV has
jumped from 9 percent to 15 percent, according to data
released this month by Parks Associates.
a significant increase and a steady trend upward,"
said Brett Sappington, who as senior director of
research at Parks Associate tracks trends in TV viewing.
"There is a bit of a renaissance for the antenna.
For many years, the trend in the U.S. was in the rise of
pay TV as a primary entertainment option for consumers.
But, if you look worldwide, over-the-air broadcasts are
by far the dominate way people watch TV channels."
really, the resurgence in antenna usage in the U.S. isn’t
all that surprising. What with some cable and internet
packages climbing well past $250-per-month, a consumer
push back was seemingly inevitable.
certainly doesn’t hurt that all you need is a digital
antenna for live access to over-the-air, HD broadcasts
on the local stations we all know: ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX,
PBS and the CW. Plus, you can find several affordable
antenna options at your neighborhood Wal-Mart, and
plenty more on Amazon.
still, once you have said antenna, those broadcast
channels are all free. Yes, reception, obviously, varies
based on your location, but a handy tool from the
Federal Communications Commission makes it easy to gauge
what stations have the strongest signals in your
antenna’s comeback can be directly linked to the
increasing cost of traditional pay TV packages,
Sappington said. At the end of 2016, American
households, he said, were paying, on average, $84 a
month just for cable or satellite TV.
consistently shows that the perceived (lack of) value of
pay TV is always the No. 1 reason why people cut the
cord," Sappington said. "They say, ‘My pay
TV was not worth what I was paying, and so I canceled.’"
be told, the households embracing antennas probably
never watched the broadcast networks all that much to
impression is that the vast majority of people using
antennas are doing it because they’ve bought into some
… streaming service and don’t want to watch that
much broadcast TV," said Paul Verna, an internet TV
analyst with eMarketer.
theorizes that these renaissance viewers are really just
turning to antennas as a fall back in case of a network
TV emergency — say the Super Bowl or a major awards
observation aligns with the rise of streaming
alternatives, which run the gamut and range from
on-demand (Netflix) to live (Sling TV), and to super
niche (British-TV-only app Acorn TV).
Associates tracks more than 130 of these over-the-top
(OTT), as in over-the-internet, services. It turns out
that half of the 63 percent of U.S. broadband households
that subscribe to an OTT service subscribe to more than
these streaming choices let consumers piece together
their own version of the classic cable bundle. That
behavior is getting easier to do with the arrival of new
set-top boxes such as AirTV and Tablo. The former merges
streaming services with over-the-air signals, while the
latter lets users stream and record over-the-air
stations. Both plug into your home’s digital TV
while the antenna may seem like a blast from past, it
really presents a path to the future.