* Number of U.S. households with TVs drop to 96.7 pct
* Economic downturn, other platforms account for decline
NEW YORK, May 3 (Reuters) - The number of households in the United States that own television sets is estimated to have declined for the first time in 20 years, according to forecast figures from the Nielsen Co that were released on Tuesday.
The switch from analog to digital broadcast in 2009, the economic downturn and the trend among consumers to watch TV programs across other platforms, including computers and tablet devices, were given as reasons for the shift.
Still, it was estimated that in 2012, some 96.7 percent of U.S. households will own televisions, down from 98.9 percent in 2011.
Nielsen, a division of Nielsen Holdings (NLSN.N), based their preliminary estimates on the 2010 U.S. census data, which showed an increase in the number of households and trends of TV ownership of the past several years. Adjusted estimates will be provided in August 2011.
Nielsen, which keeps tabs on TV ratings and often determines the fate of programming, also said that a number of younger urban consumers are going without paid TV subscriptions, often referred to as “cord cutting.”
The long-term effects of cord cutting were still unclear, Nielsen said. (Reporting by Jennifer Saba, editing by Maureen Bavdek)