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Cable TV in Decline

The Television Bureau of Advertising (TVB) announced that, according to its latest research, a record number of American TV households receive video programming through an alternate delivery system (chiefly direct broadcast satellite).

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Unedited press release follows:

30.9% of American TV Households Now Subscribe to Alternate Delivery, an All-Time High, While Wired Cable Hits 21-Year Low

NEW YORK, June 9, 2011 – A record number of American TV households are receiving video programming via an alternate delivery system (ADS), mostly via direct broadcast satellite, according to a TVB analysis of Nielsen Media Research data for May 2011, while wired-cable penetration has declined to a 21-year low.

According to Nielsen NTI data, national ADS penetration hit 30.9% last month, an all-time high that is up from 30.3% in May 2010. Wired-cable penetration, on the other hand, declined to 60.6% in May 2011 from 61.1% in May 2010—the last time wired-cable penetration had been any lower was in November 1989.

“It would appear that the cut-the-cord phenomenon is real, and that has implications for the advertising community. Advertisers who buy cable locally need to know that local wired cable systems’ ability to deliver commercials continues to erode,” said Steve Lanzano, TVB President. “In fact, in quite a few markets, a majority of those paying for video programming are now getting that programming via ADS rather than from a wired-cable system. Local cable commercials are not seen in ADS homes, and so local advertisers need to deduct the ADS percentage of the audience if they are included in the cable systems’ submissions.” In November 2003 Nielsen Media Research began making available hard-wired local cable numbers and excluding ADS homes via its Total Viewing Sources DVD. But some third-party processors are still adjusting their software products to use the DVD and the printed Nielsen books do not break out the numbers separately, so some advertisers still need to make ADS deductions manually.

Top 10 ADS levels in markets 1-50

Television HH
DMA Rank DMA Name % Wired Cable and/or ADS % Wired Cable % ADS
36 Greenvll-Spart-Ashevll-And 92.4 45.9 47.0
40 Birmingham (Ann and Tusc) 93.5 47.8 46.2
44 Albuquerque-Santa Fe 83.0 38.0 45.3
16 Denver 89.5 48.2 41.8
50 Memphis 90.6 49.6 41.5
20 Sacramnto-Stkton-Modesto 90.9 51.5 40.4
12 Phoenix (Prescott) 86.3 46.6 40.3
21 St. Louis 90.1 50.7 39.8
31 Salt Lake City 82.2 43.3 39.3
8 Atlanta 94.1 56.0 38.8