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Streaming accounts for 26% of US TV time

Streaming ascendancy shatters TV habits to account for 26% of US viewing

The inexorable rise of streaming services has seen the sector account for 26% of all time spent in front of the TV in the US, according to new figures released by Nielsen.

The survey highlights the rapid rise to dominance of services such as Netflix and Hulu, although traditional network and cable TV still holds up well, attracting 64% of all TV viewing.

Streaming is still in the ascendancy

  • The standout stat from Nielsen’s figures is the inexorable rise of streaming as services such as Amazon Prime and Disney+, detailing how they eat into the market share of traditional network and cable TV.

  • Now accounting for 26% of all TV watching, the sector has proven it is here to stay – although both cable and broadcast television hold up well with a 64% share.

  • Drilling down further into the figures, it is Netflix and YouTube that have benefited the most from increasingly fickle audiences, with both platforms each accounting for 6% of the total streaming time according to Nielsen.

  • This casts a long shadow over Disney’s Hulu, which languishes on 3%, while Amazon Prime drew 2% and Disney+ recorded a 1% share.

  • By way of comparison, last year streaming accounted for just 20% of all viewing, while by the end of the year analysts forecast that the proportion could hit 33% according to CNBC.

TV viewing fragments

  • An increasingly fragmented picture charts a growing ‘other’ category in addition to the two primary viewing options, with 8% of all viewing hours categorized as VOD and streaming from set-top boxes, as well as gaming and disc-based viewing.

  • This diversification has been fueled by a growing number of viewers shunning traditional pay-TV during the pandemic, with figures suggesting 7 million Americans canceled their subscriptions in 2020 – a record high.

  • The chief beneficiary of this trend has been – you guessed it – streaming, with the average American now signed up to no less than four separate streaming content providers.

The death of TV has been grossly exaggerated

  • Amid all the hoopla and hype surrounding streaming, it is remarkable how resilient traditional over-the-air broadcasts and cable have been.

  • This loyalty stands in sharp contrast to the streaming pretenders, where so-called levels of churn as customers cancel and switch services jumped from 20 to 46% between January and October last year.

  • The fickle nature of streaming viewers stands as a note of caution, illustrating how recent rapid gains can just as quickly unravel.

  • The latest figures bear out a 2019 assessment from Nielsen, which presciently declared that viewers faced a ‘paradox of choice’.

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