Recommendations, Algorithms Influence Consumer Streaming Viewership

With dozens of streaming video services carrying a seemingly unlimited supply of TV shows and movies to watch, how do consumers decide what programming gets clicked to “play”?

The answer appears to be threefold: recommendations from friends and family, algorithmic selections and promotions from the streaming services themselves, and knowing what you want.

That's according to Nielsen’s Q3 Total Audience Report, released Tuesday morning.

In addition to tracking total media consumption across platforms, the report took a deep dive into streaming video and audio, looking at how consumers decide what to stream.

Nielsen found two-thirds of consumers streaming audio (67%) and video (66%) say recommendations for shows, movies, music and podcasts from friends and family influence their consumption habits. Similarly, 67% of video streamers and 56% of audio streamers say they return to content previously watched, but is more accessible due to streaming.



Of note to streaming giants such as Netflix, Spotify and Hulu: 59% of video streamers and 52% of audio streamers say they are influenced by the browsing menus of their favorite streaming services. Some 48% of video streamers and 47% of audio streamers are influenced by personalized recommendations provided by those services.

That may help explain the success of programs such as Netflix’s “Bird Box,”  which the streaming service says was viewed by more than 45 million accounts in just over a week. The service heavily promoted it on its browsing menus, and served it as a recommendation to people who had watched similar movies.

Perhaps even more interesting is that browsing menus and algorithms were a more effective promotional tool than traditional ads. Nielsen found only 34% of streaming video and audio consumers cited advertising as a reason why they watched a show on their digital services.

Nielsen’s Total Audience Report also found total video consumption was down a tick, compared to Q3 of the previous year, driven by a decline in viewership on traditional linear TV and on PCs. Still video viewers on smartphones and connected TV devices rose slightly year over year.

Time spent across all media was exactly the same compared to the year before, with U.S. adults spending 10 hours and 30 minutes every day with various forms of media — from smartphones to PCs to radio and TV sets.

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