Streaming Consumption Overtakes Live TV, TV Time-Spent Below Pre-Pandemic Level

The number of Americans who stream TV content has slightly surpassed the number who watch live TV: 83% versus 81%, according to Attest’s 2021 U.S. Media Consumption survey, conducted among 2,000 U.S. adults in June.

Meanwhile, time spent watching TV is not only below 2020’s inflated pandemic levels, but significantly below pre-pandemic levels.

This year, just under 18% report watching five or more hours of live TV (9% between five and six hours and 9% more than six hours). That’s down from 30% in 2020 and 31% in 2019.

On the flip side, the number reporting that they watch less than one hour per week of live TV shot up to 22%, from 12% in 2020 and 11% in 2019. When those saying they watch no live TV at all are factored in, the number hit 41% this year — up from 26% in 2020 and 17% in 2019.

Fewer than a quarter — 21% each — now report watching three to four, and one to two, hours per day. That compares to 23% and 22%, respectively, in 2020, and 25% and 27% in 2019.



In all, 39%, on average, report watching three or more hours per day of live TV now.

Not surprisingly, boomers and Gen X are the heaviest live-TV watchers, with 54% and 44% respectively saying they watch three or more hours per day, compared to 35% of Millennials and 20% of Gen Z.

In comparison, the percentages reporting that they currently watch three or more hours of streamed TV per day are 20% for boomers, 29% for Gen X, 43% for Millennials and 44% for Gen Z.

Overall, the number of adults watching five or more hours of streamed content per day declined from 20% in 2019 and 26% in 2020, to 12% this year. The number watching one hour or less increased from under 30% in 2019 to about 40% in both 2020 and 2021. But those watching between one and four hours rose from about 40% in 2019 and 2020 to 50% this year.

A closer look at generational behaviors confirms that Gen Z watches the least live TV, with 29% saying they generally watch none, 32% watching less than an hour per day, and 20% between one and two hours.

Most stream for one to two or three to four hours per day — 29% each — and 15% watch at least five hours per day. Just 5% generally don’t watch any on-demand TV.

Fully 89% of Gen Zers use Netflix, followed by Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ (56%), 37% HBO Max (37%), Peacock (25%) and Paramount+ (16%).

Millennials watch considerably more live TV, with 56% watching at least an hour per day, 21% one to two hours, and 20% three to four hours.

In addition to the 43% who stream for three or more hours per day, 27% stream for one to two.

Three-quarters (74%) use Netflix, 60% Amazon Prime, 46% Disney+ and 45% HBO Max, but 29% say they don’t regularly use TV on-demand services.

In addition to the 44% who watch three-plus hours of live TV per day, Gen Xers are most likely to watch more than six hours (14%). And like boomers, 61% watch up to four hours per day.

They’re three times more likely than Millennials say they generally don’t watch any streamed TV (21%). Sixteen percent watch an hour or less, although 17% watch three to four.

Gen X is somewhat less reliant on Netflix (65%), with 54% and 30% respectively using Amazon Prime and Disney+, 27% Peacock and 24% HBO Max. Nearly half (48%) say they don’t regularly use TV on-demand services.

Among the 54% of boomers who watch three or more hours of live TV per day, 28% are at the three-to-four-hour level, and 26% at five or more hours.

More than a third (36%) say they generally don’t watch and streaming TV, and those who do are most likely to watch one to two hours per day (28%).

More than half (53%) use Netflix, followed by Amazon Prime (46%), Hulu Live (18%) and Disney+ 17%).

3 comments about "Streaming Consumption Overtakes Live TV, TV Time-Spent Below Pre-Pandemic Level".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 27, 2021 at 8:16 a.m.

    Karlene, a better headline fior this article would be "Study Shows Gains For Streaming Vs. Live TV". Instead, the article contains lots of information from this study which, when compared with other information---like what Nielsen's meters are reporting---raises questions about the validity of the study findings.

  2. Gabriel Greenberg from Octillion, October 8, 2021 at 2:09 p.m.

    Ed - the fact that you are talking about differences in Nielsen numbers that we know are wrong is surprisng to me. Nielsen has been had their MRC accredation removed because we know the numbers are wrong. 

    If you compare this new research to that of what ComScore just released, the numbers are withing a 3% +/- difference so in mind are believeable  

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 8, 2021 at 5:03 p.m.

    Gabe, the MRC does not and never has determined whether the findings of any audience measurement service it monitors are right or wrong. That impossible job isn't MRC's mission and they certainly haven't made any such statement about Nielsen recently. To your point about the ComScore data, I just responded to your post about this on Linkedin. There you stated that straming activity has surpassed "linear TV" and cited this finding from ComScore for June: 82 million homes averaged 100 hours each in streaming activity. You didn't cite comparable data---which ComScore can give you---- for all TV activity---so I made an approximation. Assuming that the average TV home "watches" 6-7 hours per day that works out to let's call it 121 million homes with 195 hours of total TV activity per home  versus 82 million homes averaging 100 hours each for streaming. That results in a streaming share of about 36%  which is not unlike Nielsen's recent findings--around 30% --- and my ComScore numbers  were approximated.  Even if one source says that streaming's share is , say 33% and the other says it's 30% that's hardly a gigantic disparity; such differences are to be expected when comparing different surveys. If, however, ComScore was claiming that streaming now garners 55% of all set activity while Nielsen was reporting only findings in the low 30s that would be a cause for concern---but that is not the case as far as I can see.

Next story loading loading..