This question originally appeared on Quora: Why are there more people not feeling the need to have TVs?
When I started getting ready to go to college, my most expensive investment was a TV. It was a dinky thing, with a screen about the size of the microwave it stood atop, and over the course of my freshman year, I used it a total of 8 times.
At the price of $200, that averages out to 25 bucks per use: about 3 times as expensive as a movie ticket. I gave it to my little sister when she left for college, and it now sits collecting dust in her dorm room, instead.
My apartment is one of the"zero-TV" households in the United States. The term "zero-TV" is a bit misleading, since of these households own a TV display, but they do not fall into the realm of "traditional" television owners. That is, they use their televisions to stream videos, play games, or watch DVD's, but do not subscribe to broadband, cable, or satellite television. However, even considering the fact that most "zero-TV" households own a TV display, TV ownership in the United States.
One of the ways TV ownership has been influenced is the migration of television to different mediums. For instance, I choose to consume television over the internet instead of on a television set, and I'm not the only one. On the whole, 83% of my peers watch at least some television online, as opposed to 64% of the general population:
My generation, the so-called "Millennials", are moving away from television restricted to TV sets and are spending more time watching television online or on our mobile devices. This does not mean that most of my peers have given away their television sets the way I have. It does, however, mean that younger generations are less likely to seek out "TV" in the traditional sense, and instead turn to online mediums.
Not only are Millennials' TV-viewing habits lower than those of older age groups; the number of hours we spend on television is also decreasing over time (though the recently-turned 18-year-olds impact this trend as well). The generations that follow ours will likely show a similar pattern.
There are several forces behind the movement away from traditional TV. For starters, while the price of TV sets, the average price of cable has risen 131% in the past 15 years.
That's a pretty hefty bill to foot at the end of the month, especially when streaming services like, , and all cost less than $10 a month. Nevertheless, approximately of the population pays for it (although this number has ). I mean, if you think about it, you could subscribe to all three of those services and still be paying half as much as you do for cable. Netflix is the dominant streaming service, comprising , with Hulu and Amazon falling behind at 10% and 2%, respectively. As of 2013, Neilsen reports that , and Netflix's continues to experience rate .
Video streaming services influence viewing habits by providing consumers with alternatives to traditional television. Those who abandon their cable bills are referred to as "cord-cutters", and households with a Millennial in residence, and households that stream television, are substantially more likely to cut the cord than the general populace.
So, fewer people feel the urge to buy televisions because a) the incoming consumer generation watches more television on computers and mobile devices than past generations, 2) the price of cable packages is inordinately high, and cable subscriptions have begun to decrease, and 3) online streaming provides a relatively cheap alternative to traditional television packages. As the population continues to age, the most loyal television-watchers (aged 55+) pass away, and the Millenials continue to bring their streaming habits to the consumer population, this trend away from traditional television and towards streaming devices is likely to continue.
TVs appear to be going the way of the landline telephone and broadcast radio. Certainly, people are still watching TV shows. Just not on a TV. And, not in the way they once did. Rarely do people wait at home for the phone to ring. Nor do they listen to an hour long radio broadcast to catch and record that one new release they want to hear. They just download it.
And rarely do people rush home to watch their standard Thursday night TV show, like they used to. Event programs, like NFL games, the Oscars, and new "Walking Dead" episodes are the anomaly. Now, more people, are binge watching "House of Cards" and older classics like "The Wire" on their computer and mobile devices.
Netflix, HBO Go, Showtime Anytime, Hulu, and other services offer enough compelling and valuable content on mobile devices and computers to make owning a standard TV relatively obsolete. People don't like to wait. They don't like commercial breaks. They want the content, on demand. With no interruptions. Consumers have shifted to mobile.
And flexibility. Standard TVs only allow for watching one program at a time. Members of households, these days, are often in separate rooms, watching what they want. When they want. Where they want.
Quality content has also moved away from fixed broadcasting, and the need for a TV. After the groundbreaking success of "The Sopranos," many popular programs have long arcs and season long narratives. When one episode ends, cliffhangers leave us wanting more. Binge watching is in.
Unlike the serialized programs of the past, where you could easily pick up watching one episode of "Seinfeld" and still enjoy the show, it is difficult to just turn on "Breaking Bad" and enjoy it as much as the person next to you who has watched every program. Randomly turning on the TV, and surfing, will rarely lead to the best experience.
TVs also haven't innovated much in the last few years, at least not in a meaningful way that makes owning a TV more valuable. My TV experience is clunky. Explaining how to watch the shows they want to a friend house-sitting requires too much effort. It's easier to do on other devices. YouTube is more intuitive.
Any given night, I'm switching between too many devices and remotes. I've been waiting for a integrated and elegant solution that removes the need for 4 set-top boxes (TV, cablebox, TiVo, and AppleTV), 3 remotes, and yards of messy cables. Yet, nothing seems on the horizon.
New TVs look like bigger, and better resolution monitors. Pretty, but not necessary. Every season we evaluate buying a new one, but the value proposition is just not there. For this Black Friday, I don't see the need for upgrading our TV, but I happily watch the one we have.
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