Advanced Television

Research: Online sources preferred for favourite shows

November 9, 2020

Findings from Hub Entertainment Research’s annual Conquering Content study, which tracks how TV viewers discover and watch new TV shows, suggests that a perfect storm of developments – the steady stream of new viewing platforms, the rapid growth in exclusive streaming content, and the continuing decline in MVPD subscriptions – has combined to accelerate the shift toward streamers as the home for consumers’ favourite shows.

Highlights from the 2020 study:

1)    This year sees the gap widening between online sources and traditional pay-TV as the go-to platform for new shows. Hub asked viewers to name a current favourite TV show they’ve discovered in the past year. Then Hub asked how they watch it.

  • Since Hub began tracking these questions, traditional pay-TV and online have moved in opposite directions as the source for newly discovered favourite shows. In fact, today, 68 per cent of viewers watch their new favourite shows online, compared to 26 per cent from a traditional pay-TV source.
  • Netflix continues to be the top individual viewing source for new shows, with 38 per cent watching their recently discovered favourite on the platform. That’s 18 points higher than the percentage who watch a new favourite show ‘live’ from an MVPD source.

2)    Hub also sees dramatic differences in how viewers discover shows they watch online vs. those they watch with pay-TV.

  • Discovery of shows on pay-TV is driven by advertising, while favourites watched online spread organically from person to person.
  • Specifically, when asked how they first found out about their favourite online show, the largest percentage (33 per cent) said they heard through word-of-mouth. For favourites watched through a pay-TV platform, the top discovery source (30 per cent) was advertising.

3)    Hub’s research has shown that the availability of ‘original’ shows is a strong driver of subscription to a TV service, but many viewers don’t have a good sense for how much original content certain streaming services offer.

  • For a range of streaming services, Hub asked viewers if the service offers more, less, or about the same number of original shows as other platforms. Other than Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney+, half or more couldn’t venture a guess.
  • But among those who did have an opinion, Netflix was far and away perceived as the original content leader, with two-thirds of viewers believing that Netflix produces more originals than other platforms.

4)    Signing up for a streaming service to watch just one show is a common phenomenon.

  • One in three viewers says they have signed up for a streaming service to watch a single, exclusive show – most likely from Netflix, followed by Hulu and Disney+.
  • The good news for streamers is that three in four of these single-show subscribers (74 per cent) decide to keep their subscription after the show has ended. But that still leaves one-in-four who cancel once they’ve finished watching.

“Online sources are now the clear go-to for consumers’ favourite shows,” notes Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study. “And what’s especially astounding is that Netflix, by itself, is far more likely to be the viewing home for new favourites than all linear networks combined. As new streamers proliferate and as word-of-mouth and social continue to strongly influence the discovery of online content, it’s becoming rarer and rarer for viewers to turn on their pay-TV set-top box when they’re settling in to watch the shows they’re most eager to watch.”


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