Maybe It’s Not Cord-Cutting, But Cord-Nevers: TV Ownership Drops

Americans watch more TV than ever. Except for the Americans who don’t have TVs at all any more: Nielsen says the percentage of American homes with TV sets has declined to 96.7 percent, from 98.9 percent last year.

The numbers will kick off another round of debate about cord-cutting, cord-shaving, and cord-nevers–young ‘uns who grew up watching Google’s YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, etc., and have never found a reason to get a TV.

This last group is getting particular scrutiny from the TV executives I talk to, who generally remain convinced that only a very vocal minority of people have ditched TV for the Internet. But many of those same executives fret that a new generation of video watchers may never embrace TV, period.

Here’s Nielsen’s description for the drop, which includes rationales that will please both the “cord-cutting’s a myth”/”no it’s not” camps:

1) Digital Transition: The summer of 2009 marked a significant milestone with a shift from analog to digital broadcasting. Following the transition, consumers were only able to view digital broadcasts via a set with a built-in digital tuner (i.e., a newer TV set) or an analog TV set connected to a digital-to-analog converter box, cable or satellite. TV penetration first dipped after this transition; the permanence of this trend was acknowledged in 2010 after the number of TV households did not rebound over time.
2) Economics: As with previous periods of belt-tightening, the cost of owning a TV is a factor in this UE decline; TV penetration first saw sustained decreases in second quarter 2009. Lower-income, rural homes were particularly affected.
3) Multiple Platforms: Nielsen data demonstrates that consumers are viewing more video content across all platforms—rather than replacing one medium with another. However, a small subset of younger, urban consumers are going without paid TV subscriptions. Long-term effects of this are unclear, as it’s undetermined if this is also an economic issue, with these individuals entering the TV marketplace once they have the means, or the beginning of a larger shift to viewing online and on mobile devices.

To sum up: This is either a temporary blip–like the last drop, back in 1992–or it’s not. Commence the debate, again!

Shameless self-promotion time: I’ll be discussing this very issue next week at the Streaming Media East conference when I moderate a cord-cutting panel with some excellent participants from MTV, Starz, Roku and NBA Digital. Please stop by if you’re there.

Maybe It’s Not Cord-Cutting, But Cord-Nevers: TV Ownership Drops

Americans watch more TV than ever. Except for the Americans who don’t have TVs at all any more: Nielsen says the percentage of American homes with TV sets has declined to 96.7 percent, from 98.9 percent last year.

The numbers will kick off another round of debate about cord-cutting, cord-shaving, and cord-nevers — young’uns who grew up watching Google’s YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, etc., and have never found a reason to get a TV.

This last group is getting particular scrutiny from the TV executives I talk to, who generally remain convinced that only a very vocal minority of people have ditched TV for the Internet. But many of those same executives fret that a new generation of video watchers may never embrace TV, period.

Here’s Nielsen’s description for the drop, which includes rationales that will please both the “cord-cutting’s a myth”/”no it’s not” camps:

1) Digital Transition: The summer of 2009 marked a significant milestone with a shift from analog to digital broadcasting. Following the transition, consumers were only able to view digital broadcasts via a set with a built-in digital tuner (i.e., a newer TV set) or an analog TV set connected to a digital-to-analog converter box, cable or satellite. TV penetration first dipped after this transition; the permanence of this trend was acknowledged in 2010 after the number of TV households did not rebound over time.
2) Economics: As with previous periods of belt-tightening, the cost of owning a TV is a factor in this UE decline; TV penetration first saw sustained decreases in second quarter 2009. Lower-income, rural homes were particularly affected.
3) Multiple Platforms: Nielsen data demonstrates that consumers are viewing more video content across all platforms—rather than replacing one medium with another. However, a small subset of younger, urban consumers are going without paid TV subscriptions. Long-term effects of this are unclear, as it’s undetermined if this is also an economic issue, with these individuals entering the TV marketplace once they have the means, or the beginning of a larger shift to viewing online and on mobile devices.

To sum up: This is either a temporary blip — like the last drop, back in 1992 — or it’s not. Commence the debate, again!

Shameless self-promotion time: I’ll be discussing this very issue next week at the Streaming Media East conference when I moderate a cord-cutting panel with some excellent participants from MTV, Starz, Roku and NBA Digital. Please stop by if you’re there.

Osama Bin Laden, Martin Luther King Jr., and the Fake (?) Viral Quote

After the first wave of celebratory bin Laden Tweets crested yesterday came a small but notable countermovement. On Twitter, Facebook and blogs, people began expressing ambivalence about the news, by quoting this ode to non-violence from Martin Luther King Jr.

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

You can debate the sentiment, but it’s a resonant one. And Google searches will turn up lots of examples of people citing it since Sunday night.

The problem is that the first sentence–”I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy”–doesn’t appear to come from King himself.

[UPDATE: We now have at least two competing claims of authorship for the sentence--one from Penn Jillette, and another from Jessica Dovey. I've asked both for comment.]

Or, at least: I can’t find anything online that explains where or when King said or wrote that. Neither can The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle, The Detroit Free Press’ Mark W. Smith, or blogger David Nishimura.

Smith was able to find the rest of the quote in Strength To Love; a collection of the civil rights leader’s sermons.

And it’s possible that King is responsible for the first sentence, and that it’s just not accessible through Google for some reason. I can’t imagine what that would be.

Then again, I can’t imagine why someone would take an existing quote from King and tack on a sentence that wasn’t his. Perhaps there’s an MLK historian out there who can clear this up.

For now, though, we’ll add it to the long list of reminders that not everything you see on the Internet may be true–even if you’d like it to be.

[Image credit: Library of Congress via Wikipedia]

On the Web, Bin Laden News Is Big–But Not as Big as Soccer

No debate that Osama bin Laden’s death is one of the biggest news stories in years.

Except on the Web, where all of our tweeting and reading and live-streaming about it isn’t generating nearly as much traffic as other big events of the last decade.

Here’s a look at the last day of Akamai’s “Net Usage Index For News,” which is pretty much what it sounds like: It tracks interest via page views. Note the spike last night:

Akamai says traffic peaked around midnight, at 4.1 million page views per minute, which sounds like a lot. But it’s not that much–it’s not enough to crack Akamai’s top 10 list, or even its top 14 (the Internet infrastructure company has been tracking this stuff since 2005).

If you want to really make waves on the Internet, it turns out, your best bet is to involve soccer, as four of the top five biggest Web news events did. Sports in general is a good bet–it accounts for seven of the top 14:

The obvious asterisk here is that the bin Laden news broke late on a Sunday night, when a good chunk of the U.S. was headed to bed and most Europeans were presumably fast asleep.

Had this popped on a weekeday, during daylight hours, it’s reasonable to think this would have been much, much bigger. Maybe not soccer big, though.

News Corp.’s IGN Buys Hearst’s UGO In Preparation For Game Site Spin-Off

News Corp., which is getting ready to part with MySpace, is now prepping a move for another one of its big Web properties.

The media conglomerate plans to spin out its IGN.com dudes-and-games site, and is bulking up in advance by acquiring Hearst’s dudes-and-games-centric UGO.com.

People familiar with the companies’ operations tell me News Corp. and Hearst have been finalizing plans over the weekend, and will likely announce the merger within the next few days.

Plans to cleave off IGN.com will take longer, perhaps months. Roy Bahat, who has been running IGN for News Corp. since 2007, will run the new company.

The goal is to create a standalone Web business that will focus primarily on videogame news, reviews, and culture. News Corp. is weighing taking on outside investors for IGN in advance of the split; IGN may also acquire other properties before the move.

News Corp. officials declined to comment. I haven’t heard back from Hearst. News Corp. also owns this Web site.

Unlike other Web moves News Corp. has been making, the plan to move IGN outside of News Corp.’s corporate walls isn’t a disposal of an impaired asset. People familiar with IGN’s operations say it is growing and profitable.

I’m told the company expects to earn more than $10 million this year on revenues of around $100 million. The idea is that IGN will be able to grow much faster if it isn’t operating inside Rupert Murdoch’s company.

Assuming that News Corp. ends up getting a buyer or partner for MySpace, the IGN move means that the company will have found new homes for all three of the big Web properties it bought during the Web 2.0 boom.

News Corp. kicked off the boom itself by buying MySpace for $580 million in the summer of 2005; a few months later it paid $650 million for IGN. In 2007, it paid about $250 million for photo-sharing site Photobucket, which it handed over to Ontela in December 2009.

Both in and outside of News Corp., IGN has always garnered much less attention than MySpace. Just a few years ago, MySpace was the world’s biggest social network, and the reason Google had signed on for a $900 million ad deal; IGN was simply a collection of dude-oriented sites that News Corp. had overpaid for. More recently, MySpace has been a black hole for money and talent, while IGN has found its focus as a competitor to CBS’ Gamespot.

Hearst, meanwhile, has been trying to figure out what to do with UGO for a while. It paid $100 million for the site in 2007, but its original management team left within two years. Hearst Interactive head Ken Bronfin has been overseeing the site since then, and last year the company hired former Montogmery & Co. banker Kevin Covert to find a partner.

I don’t know how the two sites are valued in the merger, except that IGN is worth more. News Corp. will have a controlling stake in the combined company. Comscore says IGN has an audience of 19.7 million U.S. visitors; it pegs UGO at 13.1 million.