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Don’t Overlook Antenna TV Viewers

July 31st, 2019   ||    by Susan Kuchinskas

It’s official: antenna TV viewers can be a big deal to local stations.

In 2018, 8.1 million over-the-air TV antennas hit retailers’ shelves in the US, the Los Angeles Times reported. In January 2019, Nielsen said 16 million homes hold antenna TV viewers, up 48 percent over the past eight years, according to TechCrunch.

This trend is driven by four factors:

  • Relentlessly rising costs of cable and streaming services
  • Better antenna technology
  • DVRs designed to work with antenna TV, notably Amazon’s Fire TV Recast
  • Improved signal quality from digital HD transmission

Viewers Get the Message

When television first went HD and old antennas no longer worked, many people didn’t notice. They were used to getting all their content via cable anyway. But the cost of cable service continues to rise, while must-have streaming services proliferate—adding to the monthly subscription burden.

For many consumers cord-cutting makes sense, and they are getting advice like this from NoCable.org: “Take the first step by installing an HD antenna. It is the easiest decision you’ll make when cutting the cord.”

The addition of DVRs that connect with antennas gives cord-cutters the best of both worlds: free TV and the ability to watch programming any time, just like with streaming services. Amazon is a strong player here, known for its consumer-friendly, easy-to-install-and-use hardware. It recently cut prices for Prime members, bringing it to homes for $129.99, Mashable said.

While it’s clear that antenna TV viewers are an important market, TV stations might have a different outlook. They make significant revenue from reverse transmission fees paid to content producers by cable stations—but they shouldn’t coast on these.

The increase in antenna TV viewers has a strong upside for local stations.

Antenna TV Viewers Are a Valuable Audience

Referencing a Horowitz Associates report, MediaPost said that 40 percent of antenna owners are 18 to 34, while that demo makes up 31 percent of total TV content viewers. Fifty-nine percent of them are male, versus 49 percent of all TV content viewers. This is a prime demographic for many advertisers.

Reaping Profits During the Election Cycle and After

Local stations will get a good revenue bump from the 2020 election cycle. Adweek said in 2016, local TV advertising in battleground states accounted for 26 percent of all local ad time, increasing to 32 percent by the end of the cycle.

They should also go after the growing number of direct-to-consumer brands that have increased their spending on television advertising by 60 percent to $3.8 billion in 2018, according to Broadcasting & Cable.

Local ad reps can now begin to make the case that only they can reach their portion of those 16 million homes with antenna TV—and, especially, that hard-to-hit younger demographic.

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