Cord-cutting trend? Nielsen reports increase in broadcast-only homes that subscribe to broadband

The number of homes that rely on broadcast TV and broadband Internet connections for home entertainment jumped by nearly 1 million, or 22.8 percent, from the third quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2011, Nielsen said this week.

Nielsen noted in its Cross-Platform Report for the third quarter that there were 5.1 million "broadcast only" and broadband homes in the period, up 948,000 from the third quarter of 2010 and an increase of 155,000 from the second quarter of 2011. The data could suggest that more homes may be turning to Internet video and broadcast TV while cutting the cord on cable and satellite TV subscriptions.

But Nielsen emphasized that the report could simply show that broadband is becoming more popular. "The increase in broadcast-only/broadband homes is the most significant of any category though it is not necessarily an indication of downgrading services. Rather, this could reflect broadcast-only homes upgrading to broadband as their needs change," Nielsen wrote in the report.

Broadcast-only/broadband homes watched just 11.2 minutes each day of streaming video during the third quarter of 2011, but that was still more than double the amount of time (5 minutes) that the general cross-platform population spent on streaming video. Broadcast-only/broadband homes spent the majority of their time (122.6 minutes per day) watching traditional TV, Nielsen said.

"Whether they're cord-cutters or former broadcast-only homes that upgraded to Internet service, these homes represent a very small but growing group of consumers," Nielsen added.

There were 61.2 million cable homes in Q3, down more than 1 million from Q2, Nielsen said. Verizon (NYSE: VZ), AT&T (NYSE: T) and other telcos counted 8.3 million homes in Q3, a gain of 256,000 from Q2. Satellite TV providers DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) and Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) counted a total of 34.7 million homes in Q3, up 173,000 from Q2.

There were 80.8 million cable and satellite homes that also subscribed to broadband in Q3, down 120,000 from Q2, Nielsen said.

For more:
- see Nielsen's cross-platform report (registration required)

Related articles:
Deloitte: 9% of consumers have cut cord on pay TV
Nielsen: TV homes will decline in 2012
Nielsen to expand set-top data collection in 2012
Nielsen tests iPad measurement with Cablevision, Time Warner Cable