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Local

Cable cutting: ‘Zero-TV’ trend on the rise

A Roku device, used to connect to your television set to stream movies and TV shows from the Internet, is available for checkout at the St. Charles Public Library.
A Roku device, used to connect to your television set to stream movies and TV shows from the Internet, is available for checkout at the St. Charles Public Library.

A new trend has developed among patrons of the St. Charles Public Library in recent years, and it has nothing to do with books.

It’s about TV.

“They tell us they’ve canceled their cable,” said Heidi Krueger, reference and information services manager.

Albeit small, it’s a trend happening nationwide. According to the Nielsen Company, more than 95 percent of Americans continue to get their information and entertainment from traditional cable or satellite options, but the “Zero-TV” group is growing.

This year, there were more than 5 million Zero-TV households in the United States, up from about 2 million in 2007, Nielsen reported.

Of the Zero-TV households, Nielsen found, two-thirds get their content from such devices as computers, the Internet, smartphones and tablets.

“The television itself isn’t obsolete, however, as more than 75 percent of these homes still have at least one TV set, which they use to watch DVDs, play games or surf the ‘Net,’” Nielsen reported.

KEEPING THE CUSTOMERS

Cable providers, such as Mediacom, are reacting to changing TV habits by providing additional services.

“As a service business, Mediacom and cable are in a good position as long as we keep innovating,” Mediacom spokeswoman Phyllis Peters said.

She noted there are tradeoffs for cutting cable that some aren’t willing to give up.

“While subscriptions to some of the nontraditional video providers like Netflix have seen impressive subscriber gains, consumers, overall, still rely on the cable subscription for the big live events and for a wide range of channels they can’t receive on one of the alternative subscription plans,” she said.

Mediacom, which serves portions of western Kane County, has launched TV Everywhere, a service that lets its customers watch programming on their computer, tablet and smartphone. CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and TNT are among the channels that can be accessed on the go.

“If you can get [the channels] in your home, we want our customers to be able to watch them anywhere else as well,” Peters said.

SEEKING TV ELSEWHERE

But for those wanting to ditch cable and seek TV content through other means, options abound. Many are documented online at www.CordCutterGuide.com, a website that launched in 2011.

“When the cord cutter word started to emerge, I was interested,” said Greg Scott, author of the Cord Cutter Guide. “At the same time, my wife and I thought cable was high, and we didn’t really watch many of the channels.”

Getting cable-provided content without cable can take some planning, Scott said, naming sports and some reality shows as challenges. But, he said, there are ways to access that content – sometimes at a cost – and he details those options on his website.

Popular cord cutter devices include Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast, Scott said. He noted that Aereo – a service that lets users watch live TV online – is coming to Chicago.

In St. Charles, residents of the St. Charles Public Library district can access a Roku device for free. The library recently added four of the streaming player devices to its catalog for checkout – and they almost always are checked out or on hold, Krueger said.

With the library’s Roku devices, she said, users can access Netflix and Amazon Instant Video.

“They can watch whatever they want, unlimited,” she said.

St. Charles library card holders also can access movies and TV shows at www.hoopladigital.com, the new digital brand of Midwest Tape, a longtime content provider for libraries.

“Viewing habits have really changed,” said Jeff Jankowski, owner and founder of hoopla digital. “Libraries want to stay relevant to the needs of their customers.”

Within the first 25 days of the St. Charles library’s partnership with hoopla, 282 people were signed up with the service, and 257 items had been checked out, Krueger said. About two-thirds were movies, and the rest were TV shows, she said.

As for Scott, he said he has gone back and forth without cable. He is now without it, he said.

He said golf and food shows can be difficult programming to get without cable.

“Some things I miss,” he said.

By the numbers

While more than 95 percent of Americans continue to get their information and entertainment from traditional cable or satellite options, the Nielsen Company this year explored how the rest of Americans – the “Zero-TV homes” – get their entertainment.

It found that 67 percent of Zero-TV homes get content on these other devices:

37 percent – Computer

16 percent – Internet

8 percent – Smartphones

6 percent – Tablets

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