DVRs and OTT services have been eroding the primacy of live TV for years, but in just the last two, prime-time viewing has hit a clear tipping point. According to the latest tracking study of TV habits from Hub Entertainment Research, the share of viewers who default to live broadcasts when turning on the TV has plummeted since 2013, from 50% of the total to 34%.
To be sure, live TV remains the top source when first tuning in. But at least according to these self-reported metrics, the amount of time viewers spend with live TV has dropped from 41% of total time to 32%, while time spent with online platforms has grown to 46%, up from 34%. DVRs have taken some of the hit from streaming services, down to a 16% share from 21%.
If Gen-Z and younger Millennials are the trendsetters marketers like to think they are, then Netflix is the new TV. The shift is dramatic for 16- to 24-year-olds – 40% of whom report that Netflix is the default when they turn on a TV. For the 18-34 segment, Netflix is the default for 31% and live TV for 33%.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the survey relates to how TV sources are chosen by use case and attention. When viewers are tuning in without any specific program in mind, 40% start by browsing live TV, vs. 27% who browse Netflix. And when viewers are using the TV as background for another activity, 50% go live vs. 15% turning to Netflix. But Netflix is the go-to source now when viewers have specific programming in mind to watch (28% vs. 15% for live). But Netflix is also getting our closest attention. When viewers are intent on watching a specific program without distraction, 26% of the time they are going to Netflix. They go live only 20% of the time.
TV is not TV anymore. The technology has evolved from being perceived as a narrowly defined experience to a tool, a monitor to be configured by context in countless ways. Or, another way to say it is that the great mass medium of the previous century no longer has mass media to fill it.