Nielsen revealed that broadcast and cable still account for 64% of total TV viewing, with streaming only representing 26% of viewing -- and Netflix, the dominant streamer, only at 6%.
Many “media folks” were surprised by those numbers.
No one described the disconnect between perception and reality better than CNN’s Brian Stelter, who said: “Streaming might take up three fourths of the media world's attention, but right now it's only one fourth of viewership time. Streaming might eventually cannibalize everything, but that day is a long way away.”
Even Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings expressed surprise, but also acknowledged the accuracy of the measurement. He tweeted, “Wild that most TV time in USA is still legacy linear. Stream team needs to up its game.”
There is a lesson here for folks in the advertising business. We need to be careful not to conflate what media folks talk about with what Americans actually do.
The U.S. is a vast, diverse nation. Most media folks live on the coasts, with the heaviest concentrations in New York City and LA. As someone from a small coal town in western Pennsylvania, I can certainly attest that the TV habits of folks I grew up with are nothing like those of my current neighbors on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge believer in streaming and have been for a long time. But I’m also a pragmatist who lives in the TV and streaming ad market and sees the actual viewing data from tens of millions of Americans televisions and set-top boxes on a daily basis. I can confirm that Nielsen got it right with The Gauge. As Jack Welch famously preached, “See reality as it is, not as you would like it to be.”
Incredibly, one of the stats in Nielsen’s report hasn't gotten much attention, but everyone in the ad business hopefully caught it. A big chunk of the streaming viewing was on services with no or few ads: Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Hulu. So, for all of those marketers out there telling their media teams to shift 30% of their TV budgets to streaming video, you’re likely to be disappointed.
The ad inventory just doesn’t exist. Unless, of course, you can convince Netflix to take your ads. But on that topic, Reed Hastings has been pretty clear. He has no intention to go there.
Were you surprised by Nielsen’s streaming measurement numbers?