A Mass Medium Without Mass Media: Live TV Losing Default Status

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.

This post was previously published in an earlier edition of Data & Targeting Insider.

1 comment about "A Mass Medium Without Mass Media: Live TV Losing Default Status".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, October 20, 2015 at 9:26 a.m.

    Yet Nielsen is reporting that the average person does about 86-87% of his/her TV viewing across all dayparts on a "live" basis. True, this is down from 94% about 10 years ago and we estimate that the percentage of live TV viewing will slowly decline to about 80% over the next 5-6 years. Moreover, "Millennials" tend to be the most inclined to delay their viewing----but not at all to the extent indicated in this self-reported study.

    It may be an exaggeration to say that "TV is not TV anymore". Yes, for some segments of the population things are changing and there's no denying the impact of Netflix and other alternative platforms for some disaffected Americans. But "live" TV will still be the dominant way we use the medium ---all of ns, incvluding the younger set---for some time tio come. Our unpoming edition of "TV Dimensions" provides the most current Nielsen breakdowns on live versus delayed viewing by age group. It's well worth checking out.

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