The rise of online streaming services such as Netflix and HBO Go has dramatically altered the media habits of Americans, especially young adults. Over six-in-ten of those ages 18 to 29 (61 per cent) say the primary way they watch television now is with streaming services on the Internet, compared with 31 per cent who say they mostly watch via a cable or satellite subscription and 5 per cent who mainly watch with a digital antenna, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in August. Other age groups are less likely to use Internet streaming services and are much more likely to cite cable TV as the primary way they watch television.
Overall, 59 per cent of US adults say cable connections are their primary means of watching TV, while 28 per cent cite streaming services and 9 per cent say they use digital antennas. Among the other findings of the survey:
The survey marks the latest in a number of Pew Research Center findings that show how much the internet and apps have shifted people’s access pathways to media and some types of content in recent years. The internet, for example, is now television as a source of news in the US. A generation ago, television was far and away the dominant news source for Americans, but now, the internet substantially outpaces TV as a regular news source for adults younger than 50.
Additionally, 37 per cent of the younger adults who prefer watching the news over reading it cite the web, not television, as their platform of choice. Social media is also a rising source of news: Two-thirds of adults – including 78 per cent of those under 50 – get at least some news from social media sites.
Not only are people’s pathways to information and entertainment changing, Americans are also interacting with media in new ways, thanks to always-on mobile connectivity. For instance, 85 per cent of adults ever get news on mobile devices and more than half set up their devices to send them real-time alerts about breaking news and other activities, such as new social media posts by their friends. Additionally, even by 2012 notable numbers were watching two screens as events or shows unfolded – that is, they were watching TV and simultaneously had a mobile device at their side to keep themselves occupied during commercial breaks or participate in social media chatter about the event.
Of course, there are major economic and corporate implications in these shifts. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that 24 per cent of Americans did not subscribe at all to cable TV, and 15 per cent were “cord cutters” who at one point had cable, but then opted for an Internet connection as their pathway to video content.