Government study: Average number of TVs in U.S. homes declining

Cutting the cord may concern pay-TV providers and programmers—but a new worry could be consumers kicking out TVs altogether.

The U.S Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) most recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) showed that an average of 2.3 televisions were used in American homes in 2015, down from an average of 2.6 televisions per household in 2009. In addition, the number of homes with three or more TVs declined from the previous survey conducted in 2009, and a larger share of households reported not using a TV at all.

TV chart
(Image: U.S. Energy Information Administration)

Unsurprisingly, data from the 2015 RECS showed that younger households tend to have a lower concentration of TVs per person and a higher concentration of portable devices such as laptops and smartphones.

RELATED: TV set ownership declines for first time since 1992

While it is unclear how much the reduction in TV ownership might be contributing the decline in subscribers for the U.S.’s top pay-TV providers, the exodus is clearly accelerating.

The 10 biggest publicly traded pay-TV operators lost 230,400 video customers in the third quarter, up from about 53% in the year-ago quarter. While providers like Comcast have managed to reverse the subscriber loss trend somewhat in recent quarters, satellite operators like Dish Network watched losses pile up.

The EIA’s new numbers reflect TV counts that Nielsen announced back in 2011, which showed the first decline in TV ownership in more than 20 years. According to the firm’s findings at that time, 96.7% of American households own sets, down from 98.9% in Nielsen’s previous report. The firm tied the decline to the digital transition, which helped price digital sets and antennas out of the range of many families.