How TV Watching Is Changing, Fast

It’s probably hard for media buyers bunched around New York and a few other big cities to recognize that not everybody is just like everybody they know. But it’s true. “Everybody” is not doing all the things you think they are.

A new report from Hub Research points this out:  Not Everybody is watching content on mobile devices. But a new report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau also points out, it is a brand news viewing world out there, almost changing faster than descriptors of viewing options can be invented.

According to Hub, Americans are mostly watching on TV---88% have a cable or satellite subscription, just as it’s been for awhile, give or take a percentage point. Another 7% are cord cutters, up from 5% in 2013, and 6% are cord-nevers, which I always think should be noted with as asterisk because a lot of cord-nevers are young and have, statistically, never done a lot of things--yet.

In part, that’s pointed out by other Hub stats: Most of the cord-cutters are not millennials--only 31% are. But most of the cord-nevers are millennial--57%. And most of the cord-nevers are women, seven out of 10 in fact.

Only 19% of cord-nevers think TV important or essential. Among cord-cutters, 36% do, which is why I think those OTT skinny bundles will ultimately alter the TV landscape.

For would-be cord-cutters, those new services that offer half of a boatload of a cable menu, are providing what cable/satellite defectors want: Just enough TV. For cord-nevers, it’s easy for them to hop on and off the OTT bundles without consequences, contractually or financially.

So, to me, the Hub research suggests a newer generation of viewers for whom television of the sort Comcast delivers, is not that big a deal.

In addition, cord-cutting seems to be hitting stride just about now. MoffettNathanson recently reported that 762,000 cable subscribers quit in the first quarter, which if continued, would add up to a 2.4% decline for the year. “Early returns suggest a litany of worst-evers,” its report said. The new skinny bundles, maybe particularly the one from Hulu, could really speed things up.

The Hub research also shows that 55% of respondents say pay TV’s best feature is local TV, as loathsome as most local TV newscast are. That localism is  the single most-cited attribute, slightly ahead of TV’s “liveness” at  51%.  Since some of the new bundles offer local network affiliates, that’s a skinny bundle feature to pay attention to.

Another new report, out today from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, says, more than half the time (54%) of the time we spend watching TV is watching non-linear programming, as in streaming video of all kinds. More than half of us (56%) own a streaming enabled TV,  and nearly half (46%) stream daily, up from from just about a third way back in. . .2015.

“What it means to watch TV has fundamentally changed,” the report says.  In addition, the IAB report says, “22% of streaming enabled TV owners say they ‘only or mostly’ stream digital video on their TV, a sizable uptick from 11% in 2015.”

Another Hub stat that seems jarring for its contrary point of view: It’s also not true that everybody is watching TV on a tablet or smartphone. This report says about 75% of all TV viewership still happens on a TV set, one way or the other. It’s what and how they’re watching that’s changing, though Hub's John Giegengack hastens to point out, the usage figures would change dramatically in all cases if it only studied younger viewers. 

What about tablets? Just 5% of TV viewership happens there. And smartphones? Just 4%. And here’s the kicker. The Hub research reports that respondents say 61% of their mobile/tablet viewing happens within the home. (No doubt, while they’re watching TV, too.)

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