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Nielsen Cuts 500,000 U.S. TV Homes on Census, Web Viewing

The number of U.S. TV households fell by 500,000, reflecting the popularity of online viewing and results of the 2010 census, according to Nielsen, producer of the weekly ratings that help set advertising prices.

The adjustment in U.S. TV households to 114.2 million took effect Aug. 27 and will apply to the television season starting this week, New York-based Nielsen Holdings NV said today in an e-mailed statement.

“We have had no household formation over the past several years, and I believe there is a modest amount of cord-cutting happening in younger households and in lower-income households,” said Paul Sweeney, Bloomberg Industries’ director of North American research.

Nielsen said it’s working with TV and advertising clients on what should constitute a TV home and how to account for new products such as tablet computers. It has already begun incorporating online viewing into ratings. This is the second straight year it has reduced the number of homes with TVs. In May 2011, Nielsen adjusted the number to 114.7 million, a 1 percent drop and the first decline since 1990.

In the past year, three of the four largest broadcast networks experienced drops in audiences ranging from 2 percent to more than 8 percent. Comcast Corp.’s NBC, bolstered by the Olympics and football, increased its viewership by 19 percent, according to Nielsen data.

Nielsen said its estimates for the 2012-2013 season are the first to reflect demographic details from the 2010 census, including age, sex, ethnicity and ethnic households. For that reason, the reduction amounts to an adjustment rather than one-year population changes.

“To the extent that there is cord-cutting, over-the-top companies such as Hulu and Netflix are benefiting,” Sweeney said. “These households then fall out of Nielsen’s total household mix.”

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