Tracking the Growth of Broadband-Only TV Homes

November 9, 2022

About one-third (33.2%) of US homes access TV programming only through an internet connection as of September, up from just 5.9% in September 2017, according to new data released by Nielsen. These households tend to be younger, larger, and with slightly higher incomes than the average, per the research.

The rise of broadband-only homes has shifted the way people access TV programming, with streaming continuing to take a larger chunk of TV viewing time.

In fact, just 51.5% of US TV homes could be classified as Cable+ in September, meaning that that they receive their TV programming through cable and satellite providers. This is down from 80.7% share in September 2017, as broadband-only homes have risen correspondingly during that time-frame.

By comparison, Broadcast-only homes have remained relatively steady during that period, comprising 15.3% of TV homes in September of this year, compared to 13.4% share in September 2017.

A look at other research headlines confirms the trend away from pay-TV and towards broadband-only homes:

Who Lives in Broadband-only Homes?

Broadband-only homes are younger than the average household, with a median age of 34, compared to the US median of 54. The typical broadband-only household has at least 4 members, compared to 2 for the US average, and 44% have children, compared to 30% of US homes overall.

More than one-third (36.4%) of people ages 2 and older in the US now live in a broadband-only home, up from just 6.1% five years ago.

People ages 25-34 are the most likely to live in such a home (58.7%), with a majority (51.7%) of 2-11-year-olds also residing in one. At roughly 44%, people ages 35-49 and 18-24 are about equally as likely to live in a broadband-only home.

There’s a sharp drop-off in older age groups, who remain more attuned to traditional TV. However there has been significant growth in these demographics also. Almost one-quarter (23.3%) of 50-64-year-olds live in a broadband-only home, up from just 2.1% five years ago. And more than 1 in 10 (11.3%) people ages 65-99 now live in such a home, whereas less than 1% (0.9%) did 5 years earlier.

Broadband-only homes are most highly concentrated in major metropolitan areas, led by Atlanta (38.3% share of homes there) and Seattle-Tacoma (38.1%). However, Nielsen notes that governmental initiatives to broaden high-speed internet access to rural areas and enhance broadband infrastructure suggest that over time the composition of broadband-only homes and their geographic density will be more diffuse.

The Impact of Streaming Services’ Move to Sports

Another factor in this trend is streaming services’ move into sports programming. Nielsen cites data that almost 8 in 10 sports fans have regularly or sometimes watched sports on a streaming or online channel this year. Indeed, a majority of sports fans are watching these activities on a variety of online media, from social media platforms to OTT platforms, subscription streaming services and live streaming TV services. Amazon’s streaming of Thursday night NFL games appears to be a success so far, with the 3 games streamed in September each attracting considerably more viewers than any of the 7 aired on the NFL network last year.

Overall, broadband-only homes are 36% more likely to watch sports events than the average TV household, with this rising to a likelihood that is twice as high in some markets.

And as recent data has shown, sports fans are also cutting the cord.

For more, check out Nielsen’s data here.

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