Streamers Prefer TV Shows to Movies by Four-to-One

According to the findings of a new GfK report, defining the actual viewing habits and preferences of subscribers to Netflix Watch Instantly, Amazon Prime Instant Video, and Hulu Plus, 81% of 2,300 viewing segments mentioned were for TV shows, compared to 19% for movies. 96% of Hulu Plus viewers watched TV shows almost exclusively, Netflix users preferred TV shows by a three-to-one margin (77% versus 23%), and Amazon Prime by about four to one (79% vs. 21%).

Streaming Service Effect On Premium Cable (% Watching TV Less Because of Premium Service)


% Watching Less TV


Netflix Instant Watch

Hulu Plus

Amazon Prime Instant

Premium cable








Source: GfK, July  2013

Over 500 subscribers to one or more of these services agreed to recount their use of streaming video once a day for seven days, says the report. TV dominated movies by a factor of two to one. Even though the average time for each movie was much greater, this was more than offset by the much higher number of programs viewed.

Among the specific TV shows cited as having been watched, there was very little overlap; only a few received more than a handful of mentions, and four of the top seven programs have been cancelled for at least three years. The combined “Star Trek” TV series catalog got the most mentions, at 4% of all segments. After that, only “Breaking Bad” and “”Mad Men” rose to the 3% level, with all other programs at 2% or below.

The 10 most-watched movies were mainly drawn from the past one to two years, and featured titles from “Mission: Impossible” movies to “A Dark Truth” to “Thor.” Of the top 10, only “The Hunger Games” (at 7%) broke the 2% level.

David Tice, Senior Vice President of GfK’s Media and Entertainment team, says “…. subscription streaming… provides control and multiplicity of choice… a major factor in video use… (with) scant information about content watched… circumstances of viewing… (or) other key variables… streaming services generate episodic, niche viewing… more broad and unpredictable than 200 channels on cable TV menu… … result is very individual behavior…”

The report also shows that

  • Half of the streaming segments were watched on a TV set connected to the Internet through a game console, Blu-ray player, streaming box, or a built-in connection
  • Streaming services are not eroding cable or satellite TV subscriptions, but eat into viewing time and ad exposure
  • Three quarters of viewing streaming segments are accompanied by some other activity like eating, talking, or using another digital device

And from a Marketing Charts report, the study compared viewing sources for those that used a subscription streaming service (SSV) on a particular day against those that did not. Regular streamers said they watched about 40% less live TV or DVR content on days when they used their service. But VOD viewing was unaffected or slightly higher on days when streaming services were used.

Of the 502 users recruited to the diary study, 437 were regular (weekly) users of Netflix Watch Instantly, 198 were regular (monthly) users of Amazon Prime Instant Video, and 143 were regular monthly users of Hulu Plus. Over three quarters of the regular Hulu Plus or Amazon users are also regular users of Netflix, notes Marketing Charts.

In terms of TV reception, regular users of Amazon Prime (71%) are significantly more likely than Netflix (62%) users to have cable or telco pay TV service. Netflix regular users are more likely to be broadcast-only TV homes.

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