More Consumers Now Launch TV Viewing Via Smart TV Apps Than Set-Top Boxes

When it comes to how consumers opt to launch a TV/video session, smart TV apps have caught up with and even slightly surpassed set-top boxes in a remarkably short time.

According to Hub Entertainment Research’s latest annual “Decoding the Default” study, 32% of viewers now report that they initially use a smart TV app when they start watching video content — up 10 percentage points from the 22% who said the same in 2021.

In comparison, 30% now report starting video sessions on set-top boxes (across live, VOD or DVR viewing), which represents an 11-point drop from 2021’s 41%.

“Just two years ago, nearly twice as many viewers began at the set-top box as those who started with a smart TV app,” the analysis points out. “But now, they are essentially equal as default viewing options.”



The percentage who start from a connected device rose slightly over the two-year period, from 17% to 19%.

Among viewers who do start either via a set-top box or a virtual multichannel programming distributor/vMVPD, live programming, sports and news are the primary draws.

However, traditional pay TV is also beginning to lose that main remaining live-TV programming advantage as big streaming services add live sports and news content.

On Thursday, for example, Amazon Prime Video announced a seven-year deal for exclusive media rights to five of NASCAR's races in each of seven seasons starting in 2025. Prime Video is sharing rights with NBC Sports, Fox Sports and TNT, but this makes it NASCAR's first streaming-only coverage partner. And it adds another sport, with a huge fan base, to Prime Video’s large and growing roster of live offerings, including its precedent-setting NFL deals and other recent live sports initiatives.

Meanwhile, Max is introducing a live sports tier, as well as a live CNN news channel.

The latest survey also confirms that consumers have exceptionally high loyalty to their default viewing sources, as evidenced by the responses when consumers are asked which service they would keep if they could keep only one:

“With the trend toward more live news feeds and major sports offerings on streaming services, two of the primary drivers for viewers who default to the MVPD set-top boxes are being eroded,” sums up Mark Loughney, senior consultant to Hub. “As the smart TV menu becomes a primary destination for more viewers, the importance for providers to have their apps installed on TVs cannot be overstated.”

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