TV/Video Viewers: Data Vs. Assumptions

As television and video content blur into “T-video” and viewing habits become even more fragmented, sometimes-erroneous assumptions are bound to pop up.

During MediaPost’s recent OMMA TV Insider Summit, Karen Ramspacher, SVP, consumer insights and trends, GfK, reported on “Cord Evolution” research. That research is married to GfK MRI’s “Survey of the American Consumer,” and the data are based on at-home, in-person interviews conducted among 24,000-plus consumers, with additional TV cord questions and streaming behaviors updated via online surveys three times per year.

As of the June results, nearly half (48%) of U.S. viewers defined “television” as “anything that’s on a TV set,” and 21% as “anything on any device.”

However, 62% of the total sample still say that live TV is very important, and it’s still their favorite way to watch. Fifty-five percent of their TV time, on average, is spent on live TV, driven by sports and special events. Time-shifted streaming and time-shifted DVR/VOD account for 23% and 22% of TV time, respectively.



Convenience is the most-cited reason for time-shifted viewing, but  the wide program selection it affords is next most-cited.

Viewers are starting to understand that as they tier services, they’ll probably be spending more rather than less on content, but “they seem to be okay with that as of now,” Ramspacher said.

All Viewers Vs. Millennials
Among all viewers, the preferred device for watching is still the big TV screen: 61% of total viewing time is spent watching TV service on TV sets; 17% on Internet-connected TV sets; 11% on computers; 6% on smartphones; and 4% on tablets.

In comparison, Millennials spend only 38% of their total viewing time watching TV service on a TV set; 24% on Internet-connected TV sets; 19% on computers; 10% on smartphones; and 6% on tablets.

Fully 82% of Millennials report having used streaming services in the past 30 days. And when it comes to live, 9% are using authenticated apps and watching on devices other than a TV.

True “screen agnostics” — those who watch anywhere, on any screen — are primarily Millennials. However, agnostics currently comprise just 21% of viewers.

“The reason that traditional TV still dominates is because habits die hard,” Ramspacher summed up.  

Asked what they do first when they want to “watch something,” one in four adults overall still say that they channel-surf, while one in five say they go to live first because they know what they want to watch. “I would posit that when we look at Gen Z, this is going to look very different in the future,” she said.

Among Millennials, 19% first go directly to a show on a streaming service, 17% channel surf, 15% go to a favorite network to find a show, 14% go to a show that’s airing live and, notably, 13% surf on streaming services.

In a typical week, Boomers watch seven times more live TV than streamed TV, and Gen Xers watch two times more live than streamed. But Millennials, on average, report that 39% of their show-watching time per week is live TV, 39% is time-shifted streaming, and 22% is time-shifted DVD or VOD.

On average, Millennials use six streaming services, versus the three used by viewers overall. Looking at the dominant services used by Millennials who used time-shifted streaming over the past 30 days, 62% report having watched YouTube; 55% Netflix; 27% Hulu; 23% Amazon Prime; 11% Watch ABC; 10% HBO Go; and 9% iTunes.

Streaming Not Cannibalizing Traditional
Among all U.S. viewers, 67% report having ever streamed — a number that might strike many in the industry as rather low, noted Ramspacher (although it’s up from 57% as of last October).

Similarly, 63% reported having streamed in the past 30 days (82% among Millennials only).

Streaming, stressed Ramspacher, is not really cannibalizing traditional television at present: 52% of U.S. consumers who have a traditional telco or satellite subscription have also added at least one streaming service. Or looking at it the opposite way, among those who stream, 75% have a telco or satellite subscription.

“Streamers are wrapping their arms around all of the options and content available,” she said.

Among all streamers, 73% watched short video clips in the past month, 67% watched a TV show, 54% watched a movie, and 48% watched an original streaming show. 

Among the 63% of viewers who had streamed within the past 30 days (as of June), 37% had watched YouTube; 31% Netflix; and 13% each had watched Hulu and Amazon Prime.

The one in three Americans who have never streamed tend to be lower-income and have no children in the household. People with kids spend more on streaming services, and children are key drivers of these choices.

The median income of streamers overall is $63,000; among the top-four service users, Amazon Prime users have the highest income ($71,000).

Among Hispanics, 15% are streamers and, of those, 17% report using Amazon Prime, 17% YouTube, 19% Netflix, and 21% Hulu.

People who stream are not “monogamous”; they use many different platforms.

In fact, “cord loyalists” remain the largest group: 144 million Americans, or 60% (median age 50; 57% female), have pay TV and have made no changes. In comparison, 19 million, or 8%, have cut their cords/cancelled pay TV services (median age 42, 50/50 gender demos), and 23 million or 10% have never subscribed to pay TV (median age 35; 51% female).

When people exhibiting a range of other behaviors (cord increasers, cord shavers, cord returners, cord-cutting “regretters”) and those who intend to shave, cut or increase cords are all factored in, 67% in all are classified as “content” with their pay TV/cords, 13% are deemed “cord tepid,” and 20% are cordless.

Bingeing Now Commonplace
A full 57% of viewers nationwide now report that they binge-view, (watch three or more episodes at a time), and 67% of streamers regularly binge-view.

Seven in 10 binge-viewers use streaming services; one in four use DVRs; one in five use traditional TV marathons; and one in six use VOD.

Forty-one percent of bingers say that they watch TV shows they haven’t seen previously; 35% watch favorite old series; and 22% watch original streaming series. 

1 comment about "TV/Video Viewers: Data Vs. Assumptions ".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 25, 2016 at 6:09 p.m.

    While findings such as these are interesting, they demonstrate, once again, that unless a great degree of specificity is included in the design of the questionnaire---like "What content did you stream in the past week?" or "Did you watch any of these shows live in the past week?" etc. you get very impressionistic and generally fuzzy answers. For example, Nielsen's electronic meter findings do not come up with nearly the same percentages ofTV comsumption by platform type ( "live" vs. streaming ) and it's very likely that were claimed recent streamers required to identify the content that they actually saw in that manner many claimed "frequent streamers" would not be able to supply a very long list of TV shows or videos they supposedly streamed. I'm not saying that this kind of research doesn't have value, however, it is more useful in defining general attitudes about various platforms for trending purposes that providing tight indicators of platform usage.

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