The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Is the Internet really spurring a revolution in American media consumption? A new survey indicates that's so, in dramatic fashion: eMarketer reports that more U.S. households have Internet access (68 percent) than cable TV (65.8 percent). It's a slight advantage for the Web, but the fact that it's ahead at all is amazing. The fact that television--the dominant mass medium of the last half-century--is being trumped is mind-boggling.

These results raise some questions. When I first read them, I thought the idea of a household having Internet access without cable seemed strange, and almost contradictory. Then I realized: I was thinking in terms of broadband Internet access only, which is typically obtained through cable. It's hard to keep in mind that the majority of online American households are still on dialup access, which, of course, does not require a cable company hookup. (Is it even possible to get broadband Internet access from the cable company without also getting the television service? I doubt it.)

In a way, I'm not surprised that so many people are dropping cable. Higher rates are really turning customers off. However, I wonder how many households in the eMarketer survey have satellite TV service instead, rather than just antenna. Even with just over-the-air television, there's presumably some television viewing going on; I can't believe there are that many households that have completely cut themselves off from the boob tube.