Advanced Television

Study: US watching record full-length TV content

January 7, 2020

Horowitz’s State of Viewing and Streaming 2019 study found that US consumers today are watching more full-length TV content than ever before—an average of 6.2 hours a day—much of that through streaming. In 2010, only 15 per cent of TV content viewers streamed anything at all; today, almost 7 in 10 are streamers.

Consumers report spending an average of almost 4 out of every 10 hours of viewing time streaming (37 per cent). Among self-identified streamers, that number increases to almost 6 out of every 10 hours (57 per cent). Given the recent and anticipated launches of Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and NBC’s Peacock, streaming’s share of viewing will, no doubt, continue to grow in 2020.

Much ink has been spilled about how streaming is changing the viewing experience, that consumers are watching more content on mobile devices and that the old way of watching TV is dying. In fact, the ability to stream to the TV has played a tremendous role in driving streaming adoption. Horowitz data show that the TV set is the most popular screen used to stream full-length TV shows and movies, with 3 in 4 streamers saying they stream to a TV screen at least occasionally. In contrast, 55 per cent use a computer, 48 per cent use their mobile device, and 30 per cent use a tablet to watch full length content at least occasionally. What this means is that the overall idea of watching TV is far from dead; it has just shifted delivery systems. In this new ecosystem, viewers increasingly expect that their experience streaming TV content to a TV set will be as seamless, high-quality, and lag-free as watching through a traditional cable or satellite TV service.

The most popular way to stream to a TV is to use a streaming stick or box like an Amazon Fire TV Stick, a Roku, an Apple TV, or a Google Chromecast. Indeed, as of February 2019, nearly one-third of all Plume US households have a streaming device connected to their Wi-Fi network. Data from Plume sheds additional insight into what is happening in those homes that stream using a stick or box. In households with a streaming device, Amazon and Roku are neck and neck in terms of share of usage, handily outperforming Apple TV and Google Chromecasts.

According to Horowitz, gaming consoles are the second most popular devices consumers use to stream to the TV set. A look at Plume households with gaming consoles illustrates the impact of streaming on bandwidth consumption. Penetration of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo gaming consoles are relatively on par but the volume of content downloaded by brand varies widely, with Nintendo consoles downloading a mere 0.24GB on average, and Microsoft and Sony consoles downloading 3.37GB and 2.04GB on average, per day.

The major difference between these three brands of gaming consoles is that the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation consoles are designed to be entertainment hubs in addition to gaming devices. Even at its launch back in 2013, the Sony PlayStation 4 supported all major video streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, Crunchyroll, Epix, Vudu, and even more video and music streaming services. Sony even had its own streaming service, PlayStation Vue, which is shutting down in January 2020. In contrast, Nintendo’s consoles are designed primarily as gaming devices, with streaming as a secondary function. In fact, Nintendo’s Switch does not yet support Netflix, which, according to Horowitz, commands the lion’s share—1 in every 3 hours, on average—of streaming time.

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