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Nielsen: 1.5M U.S. households cut the cord in 2011


One thing seems certain: the number of U.S. homes subscribing to a cable, satellite or telephone company for a multichannel TV bundle isn’t growing as fast as it used to.

In fact, belying several earlier research studies, which said growth of U.S. multi-channel services has slowed significantly but not stopped, Nielsen’s latest “Cross-Platform Report” says the number of U.S. homes paying a multichannel provider for TV services last year actually declined by 1.5 million, or about 1.5 percent.

Subscription gains made by telco providers AT&T (s ATT) and Verizon (s VZ) (about 1.1 million) and satellite service companies DirecTV (s DTV) and Dish (s DISH) (added 280,000 subscribers) could not offset the over 2.9 million subscriptions lost by cable providers, Nielsen reports (see chart).

Other nuggets from Nielsen’s quarterly “Cross-Platform” report:

— After years of growth, the average amount of time per month the typical viewer spent watching traditional TV in the fourth quarter declined by about 46 minutes, or one half of one percent. Nielsen says most of that shift is caused by DVR usage, which was up 12.3 percent year over year, but viewing of internet video (up 4.2 per) is also beginning to factor in.

— Amount of time spent on game consoles in the U.S. was up 30 percent year over year in the fourth quarter. These consoles can now be found in 45 percent of American homes, Nielsen says.

— Among kids 2-11, time-shifted viewing grew about 20 percent over the fourth quarter of 2010, with young audiences embracing DVR usage and on-demand viewing on game consoles.

There's Never Been A Better Time To 'Cut The Cord'


As expected, this holiday season is already awash with some great (and not so great) deals on televisions. While getting that 65” 4K TV is always tempting, there’s another potential gift to consider: cutting the proverbial cable or satellite cord could save you or someone else literally hundreds of dollars over the course of the year. What better way to ring in 2018?

Naturally, there are considerations and consequences to “cutting the cord,” but with the virtual explosion of streaming TV services (which now integrate live TV channels), there’s never been a better time to do it. After all, studies have repeatedly shown that despite the number of channels that are available to a cable or satellite subscriber, most consumers only watch 15 channels or less, 80% of the time.

What’s even more compelling is that many (if not most) free local TV channel content is available “over the air” (OTA) in HD format, for free–a fact that many consumers are not fully aware of, possibly due to poor communication by the government. The combination of free local TV channels and premium streaming content services go together like peanut butter and chocolate, and creates a powerful alternative to a conventional cable or satellite subscription (though there are limitations you need to be cognizant of).

Here’s a few things to think about:

First of all, spend 15 minutes and list the channels you consistently watch and care most about. I suspect that your short list will include local news and entertainment channels, generally not available via streaming TV services.  As I mentioned earlier, many local channels are available OTA–with some limitations. Accessing these channels is not quite as easy as purchasing a $20 digital antenna and connecting it to the integrated tuner in your TV, and the available channel guide is very crude (usually only showing channel call signs without program descriptions). In addition, you will find it very frustrating to jump to a specific channel that you watch frequently. There are solutions on how to solve this (more on it later), but first things first: determine what local channels are available to you. The websites of popular antenna manufacturers like Winegard ( or Mohu ( have convenient online wizards that can instantly tell you what local channels you have access to based on your zip code.

After you complete the first step, then comes the hard part: determining which streaming service makes the most sense for you, so that you can access the “premium” content that is generally part of most standard cable or satellite packages. The usual suspects in this area are companies like DirecTV Now, CBS CBS -0.28% All Access, Hulu (or Hulu With Live TV), Sony PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and YouTube TV–many of which provide relatively decent live TV channels (though not local TV). All of these services generally are priced with base packages that start as low as $10 per month per month with the ability to add tiers of other channels for additional cost. What’s particularly appetizing about these services is that most of them allow you to turn their services on and off on a monthly basis without a long term commitment (unlike your existing cable or satellite subscription). Personally, I like Dish Network’s Sling TV service (, because it has an extremely easy-to-use interface and numerous different packages, so you can avoid “over-buying” on channels you don’t need. Perhaps most importantly, Sling TV offers its own streamer called AirTV, and a small OTA adapter that connects to your digital antenna and integrates OTA channels into the Sling TV interface; this way you don’t have to deal with the crude embedded interface that comes along with connecting a digital antenna directly to your TV. The AirTV streamer is optimized for the Sling TV service, but also allows you to access premium content services like NetflixNFLX +0.09% and Google GOOGL -0.13% Play. In addition, the content truly looks magnificent—it supports 1080p HD and 4K Ultra HD. One important side note: don’t confuse Sling TV with Slingbox. Slingbox, which has been around for years, is only useful for accessing your cable or satellite subscription content outside of your home.

Introducing Amazon Fire TV 4K Fire Stick

Running a holiday sale or weekly special? Definitely promote it here to get customers excited about getting a sweet deal.

Who Are The Winners And Losers From Today's Amazon Announcement?


Amazon had a short-notice event in the hallowed spheres in Seattle to announce a slew of new technology that will make many happy and several others have Alexa sing them a lullaby. From newly revamped models of existing Echo designs to new devices including a smart hub ('Plug') and several advanced speakers, Amazon didn't disappoint attendees. Look out for a full analysis in Sunday's regular post of 'What Amazon Did This Week' or just search WADTW in a search engine.



Strap in...

Echo Dot ($49.99) - Redesigned Echo puck.

Echo Plus ($149.99) - The taller Echo, also redesigned.

Echo Input ($34.99) - a thin puck that acts as an Echo without a speaker - it works with any speakers.

Amazon Smart Plug ($25.99) - an adapter that basically turns things off and on (that go of and on)

Echo Show ( $229.99) - a 10-inch screen that has Echo in it.


Echo Wall Clock ($29.99) - a clock to show your Alexa timers.

Echo Sub ($129.99) - A subwoofer with Alexa in it. (That noise is Sonos collectively sighing.)

Echo Link ($199.99) - Stereo amplifier

Link Amp ($299.99) - Bigger stereo amplifier

Echo Auto ($49.99/$24.99 invite price) - Exactly what it sounds like. Buy that protein powder while at the red lights.

Amazon Fire Recast TV ($229.99 and up) - A DVR box that shows and records shows with some smart tech in it.

Ring Stick Up Cam ($179.99) - An updated version of Ring's Stick Up Cam.

Microwave ($59.99) - An Echo powered microwave with dedicated popcorn button (not making this up)



1) Amazon

- The new devices will excite consumers and further push them into Amazon's ecosystem (the ultimate goal). As a side note, the media that cover Amazon just seem more upbeat about them than what Apple announced recently. Amazon Music and Spotify will be happy.

2) Interior Decorators

- Amazon is now also going for the fabric look too (Google Home launched with this element so it's safe to assume people have responded well to the softer look and feel).

3) Weather apps

- Amazon has improved the functionality of Weather along with a slew of other much-used elements (nothing mentioned about the news though).

4) Microwave food manufacturers/popcorn kernel brands (!)

- Amazon just secured your future...for now!


1) Sonos

- Let's get this one out the way, if not a death knell, a clear shot across the bow of the expensive speaker market. Amazon just launched While Sonos does work with Echo and all friends are good (market share is being encroached on by Google Home), you have to be asking yourself for how long and with the new hub...

2) Smart hub makers (Philips etc)

- Amazon announced a smart plug that basically means you don’t need a smart hub of your thing has two states (on and off) - expect this to change with updates. This is a big deal because Amazon has made it simple and 'safe' (brand wise).

3) IoT designers

- Amazon just made you a lot less needed - time to regather and change offerings.

4) Anyone who recently bought an Alexa

- Despite no real price hike, new ones are better sounding and looking.

5) Apple Homepod

- Looking remarkably similar, the Echo Sub just gave people a reason not to invest in the Apple Homepod with the range of speakers.

6) Book publishers

- Alexa now can read to children - no physical purchase needed (although this is a cost-saving for Publishers too...).

7) Apple / Samsung

- Siri, Bixby and other voice assistants are starting to look ridiculously behind as Amazon doubles down on contextual cues (whispering, hunches etc). Amazon has been looking at early uses and is now milking those for more dollars (clock??!).

8) Apple Music

- More speakers mean more music being played but not using Apple Music - these puppies do not play well together (if at all).

9) Reminder/security apps

- Alexa will now - through 'Hunches' and Alexa Guard - remind you about things it thinks you may need to do or forgot to do, like turn off porch lights or lock a door.

10) Amp makers

- Amazon just made two that already goes with your other devices and is pretty good value considering the tech inside.

11) BMW/HUD Manufacturers/Traffic Apps

- Recently announcing a huge partnership with Skype - this move by Amazon has the potential to upset a lot of automakers... Echo Auto will also upset manufacturers and traffic apps because the device will use the driver's phone as a display.

12) Sky/Murdoch

- Amazon's new Fire TV device is a more direct competitor to Sky and to some degree Apple TV (when it gets its act together). This could be incredibly disruptive for media companies...

13) Popcorn brands/device manufacturers, microwave manufacturers

- Amazon just created a Microwave via its basics line. This move should be a warning to all device makers out there.

Paul runs a technology advisory business called HERE/FORTH.
Follow him on Twitter @paul__armstrong. His first book, 'Dis...


Paul founded HERE/FORTH, an emerging technology advisory, is the author of 'Disruptive Technologies' and can be found tweeting over at@paul__armstrong.

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