17.8 percent or 20.7 million U.S. households rely on OTA for their broadcast television viewing.

Michelle Clancy ©RapidTVNews | 20-06-2012

Attention cord-cutting enthusiasts: a full 17.8% of US TV households, or 20.7 million of them, now rely on free, over-the-air reception for broadcast TV, according to a study by GfK Media. That translates to 46 million to 54 million Americans out of the nation’s 300 million citizens.

Five years ago, only 14% relied on OTA signals. The culprit behind the escalating exodus is, unsurprisingly, the sluggish economy, not the attractiveness of online streaming services like Netflix, the study found.

In total, 6% of TV owners, or 6.9 million homes, said sayonara to cable, satellite and IPTV last year, led by younger Americans, minorities and low-income homes. Minorities account for 44% of all broadcast-only homes today. Meanwhile almost a quarter of homes headed by a person aged 18-34 are broadcast-only, in contrast to 17% of homes led by people aged 35-49.

“When asked why they cancelled TV service, the overwhelming majority, over 70%, cited cost-cutting; cord-cutting because of online options was cited by less than 20%,” said Dave Tice, senior vice president of GfK, in a blog post.