For many American families, owning a television is a no-brainer.

However, for the first time in 20 years, television ownership has dropped slightly. Nielsen, which uses television ownership as a way to gauge viewer numbers, reported that 96.7% of U.S. families own a television – down from 98.9% in the previous year.

Experts point to two very specific reasons for the decline in television usage: The first is cost. New digital television sets and antennas have higher prices than their analog counterparts. This puts them outside of reach of many low-income families and when television switched to digital broadcast in 2009 they had no choice but to go without. The rocky economy has put more and more families in the low-income range – producing lower television owner numbers.  There was a similar dip in television ownership in 1992 following a similar period of recession. The dip was corrected in the mid-90s when the economy bounced back.

The second reason is also due to new technology – namely the Internet. Tech-savvy young viewers are opting out of buying a television and relying on their computers and streaming television shows instead. They can access nearly all of the shows they want to instantly through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon’s Video on Demand and other sources.

As a result of the second reason, Nielsen may redefine the term “television household” to include those who watch online. The Nielsen estimates incorporate 2010 census data but the first indications of lower television ownership were seen as early as 2008 surveys.