U.S. household TV ownership dropsNielsen has announced today that for the first time since 1992, the amount of U.S. households with a TV set has fallen.

The 2012 Advance/Preliminary TV Household Universe Estimate (UE) fell to 114.7 million, from 115.9 a year ago.

Furthermore, Nielsen says U.S. homes with a TV set is now at 96.7 percent, down from its peak of 98.9 percent.

The company claims the 2012 UE drop can be attributed to:

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.

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.

Multiple Platforms: Nielsen data demonstrates that consumers are viewing more video content across all platformsrather 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 its 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.

Says the company: "The media marketplace continues to evolve and become more complex. Some consumers are clearly being driven by the economy to make choices on the media devices they purchase. Others are expanding their equipment to add more audio/video devices to their home. Still others may be deferring a TV purchase or replacing their TV with a computer. Nielsens cross-platform media strategy will allow us to measure all of this content and report the total picture of video consumption to our clients regardless of delivery method. As the census data shows that we are a more diverse country, our measurements evolve to reflect our diversity and also to encompass all the ways that Americans consume media."