nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Streaming doesn’t boost overall TV consumption

Nielsen’s August 2019 Local Watch Report is jam-packed with fascinating data on the viewing habits of Americans around the U.S. It also includes a wealth of information on those viewers that stream at least some of their TV viewing. Among the headlines from the report are that 56% of U.S. adults stream to their television. As well, Nielsen says that streamers are younger, earn more, and reached a higher level of education than non-streamers.

However, I dug through the details and found three data points that dispel some myths. As well, new data from Hulu show’s it is capitalizing on one of the highlighted groups: the cordless.

The myth that streaming boosts overall viewing

I have often heard the mantra that although TV viewing is declining slowly, total video consumption continues to grow. Looking at living room consumption reported by the Nielsen data, that idea is wrong. The 44% of U.S. adults that do not stream video to a connected TV watch 5 hours and 31 minutes from all video sources. Streamers spend over an hour less.

What’s more, streaming seems to displace traditional TV viewing time. Non-streamers watch 4 hours and 59 minutes of cable, broadcast, and time-shifted TV. Streamers watch 3 hours and 3 minutes and over an hour and 10 minutes of video via game consoles and connected TVs.

vMVPD viewers watch less than MVPD

I have long suspected that vMVPD viewers leave traditional pay TV because they watch pay-TV less, and SVOD more. The Nielsen data confirms this. The 11.1 million vMVPD viewers watch live and time-shifted broadcast and cable TV for 2 hours and 1 minute per day, versus 4 hours for streamers with traditional pay TV. Non-streamers watch linear TV for 4 hours and 26 minutes per day.

Broadband-only viewers watch much less

Of the four groups studied by Nielsen, the 15.1 million broadband-only viewers that do not use a vMVPD watch the least. As we might expect, the bulk of viewing is via a connected television, where they watch 1 hour and 44 minutes per day. The group seems to include a lot of gamers since game console viewing is much higher than any other group (26 minutes per day.)

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean TV isn’t reaching the broadband-only group.

Hulu specializes in cordless viewers

According to Hulu, it is having great success reaching the cordless viewers. The company just released data, in association with Nielsen, saying that it reaches 21 million of them with ad-supported content. What’s more, Hulu says half its viewers – over 40 million – are light or non-TV viewers.[1] The claim suggests many of them are more like the broadband-only group than any other.

Hulu’s announcement should be welcomed by TV programmers since most of Hulu’s on-demand offerings are recent TV shows. The ever-expanding cordless viewing group doesn’t appear to be running away from the TV shows. People are fleeing the confines of the traditional TV distribution models. It is good news for TV advertisers too, as the cordless viewers aren’t rejecting the advertising model. They are prepared to watch the limited ad load included with Hulu.

Why it matters

New Nielsen data shows that:

  • Streaming doesn’t boost overall video consumption through the television
  • vMVPD viewers watch much less than MVPD
  • Broadband-only viewers watch much, much less TV than any other group

Hulu is specializing in the cordless, helping TV content and advertising reach them even though they watch no traditional TV at all.


[1] Peter Naylor, SVP and head of ad sales at Hulu said the service reaches 82 million viewers, or 2.9 viewers per account

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(2) Comments

  1. Colin – In the discussion about whether streaming does or doesn’t impact video consumption, don’t you HAVE to look at the age of the people involved? IIRC there’s a STRONG correlation between age and hours of video consumed (older cohorts consume more)…. and streaming is a strong trend among younger viewers so what looks like a streaming correlation may just be an age correlation.

  2. It’s a messy set of datapoints to grab trends from, so your work is always appreciated Colin! My two cents, I always like to point out something media researchers call “quintiles”. That is, when you look at any trend in TV, the first smart cut of the data is to divide it up into “light TV viewers” vs. “heavy TV viewers” and three grades in between those two. This in turn illuminates anticipated patterns around demographics, but Not just age, but also, economic status. So, this speaks to your “earn more, higher educational status” point.

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