OTT’s Viewer Fights Could Help OTA’s Audience, Ad Growth


This is the dawning of the age of the Antenna.

Cord-cutting is driving viewership of over-the-air television, and with NEXTGEN TV set to bring addressable advertising, it could be the MVPD that loses out — and not the broadcast TV station owner — in the coming decade.

A new Horowitz Research study notes that as the streaming video wars heat up, opportunities for broadcast TV growth will emerge.

With this week’s release of Disney+ and over-the-top platforms HBO Max and NBCUniversal’s Peacock on the horizon, the streaming wars dominate conversations about how the TV industry is evolving.

But, another disruptor has been quietly gaining ground: The over-the-air market.

According to Horowitz Research’s newly released study¬†OTA: The New TV Growth Story 2019, 29% of TV content viewers 18+ report owning an antenna.

Further, some 24% actively use an antenna to get TV content on at least one of their TV sets.

Notably, Horowitz finds that 44% of antenna users report having gotten their first antenna within the past three years.


Today’s antenna users do not fit the profile of the antenna user of yesterday.

Horowitz says the stereotype of the older, less tech-savvy, lower-income TV viewer fiddling with rabbit ears on their TV should be thrown out with the recycled trash.

Demographic and media behavior data captured in the Horowitz study reveal that half of antenna users today are under 50; 24% are 18-34. They have a higher household income than non-antenna users. And, today’s antenna users are heavier TV viewers overall and are more likely to be streamers than non-antenna users.

Nearly nine in ten (87%) of antenna users stream compared to 75% among non-users; 73% report using at least one of the largest three SVOD services (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Hulu) (vs. 65% among non-antenna users).

This resurgence in antenna adoption and usage corresponds with the steady increase in cord-cutting, which for many TV viewers leads them to seek alternative ways to access live, local broadcast content, which antennas deliver.

The Horowitz study documents how the shift towards streaming is playing an important role in antenna adoption. Four in 10 (39%) antenna users who stream but do not subscribe to a traditional pay TV service (traditional meaning cable, satellite or fiber) say that a key reason they got an antenna was so that they could cancel their cable/satellite service; another 28% said that it was a reason, though not the key reason.

The correlation between antenna adoption and streaming aside, the majority (60%) of antenna users still have a traditional pay TV service. For antenna users who are MVPD subscribers, antennas are used to get specific channels they cannot get through their cable/satellite service. When asked about what channels they cannot get via their cable/satellite services, respondents mentioned the local version of major broadcasters (noting that they were not able to get their local news through their MVPD broadcast network), channels that were in the process of a carriage dispute, and some specific over-the-air networks that did not have carriage on cable/satellite, such as ION and Bounce. In addition to being able to get specific networks, other reasons that MVPD subscribers may use an antenna include, as a backup in case there is a cable/satellite outage, on TVs in parts of the house that are not wired for cable, and to avoid having a cable box on TVs (and therefore save on cable box rental fees).

Adriana Waterston, Horowitz’s SVP of Insights and Strategy, says, “Free or low-priced TV is more readily available to consumers than ever before. The number of OTA channels is increasing. And, new technologies like OTA DVRs, OTA integration into connected TV platforms, and the rollout of Next Gen TV standards will only serve to increase consumer awareness and accelerate usage of over-the-air content in the viewing diets of American viewers.”

OTA: The New TV Growth Story 2019 was conducted in September 2019 in English and Spanish among 1,541 TV content viewers.