Americans Are Streaming More Video and Many Feel Overwhelmed

bored woman watching TV
Viewers of streaming services are feeling overwhelmed by choice, per a Nielsen report. (Image credit: LittleBee80/Getty Images)

Americans increased the time they spent streaming video by 18% in February to 169.4 billion minutes from a year ago, according to Nielsen.

In its new State of Play report, Nielsen says streaming will continue to grow. It found that 93% of Americans said they will increase their paid streaming services or make no changes to their current subscription portfolio over the next year. The number of Americans paying for more than four streaming services grew to 18% from 7% in 2019.

Over the last three years, there has been an 18% increase in available video content, and not surprisingly, a lot of viewers are overwhelmed. With a 20% increase in unique program titles to a whopping 817,000, 46% of respondents said the growing number of shows, services and platforms has made it difficult to find the content they’re looking for. 

When asked if bundled streaming services might make it easier for consumers to find the content they are seeking, 64% of respondents indicated they wish there was a bundled video streaming service that would allow them to choose as few or as many video streaming services as they wanted.

Despite the difficulty, subscription video-on-demand now accounts for 53% of minutes streamed. Of the four hours, 49 minutes per day that the average American spends watching content, 1:22 of that is through connected TV.

At the same time, ad-supported VOD (AVOD) and virtual multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) account for 35% of consumption. YouTube TV, which Nielsen said is the vMVPD with the highest household penetration, has grown in percentage of homes by 160% since 2020. 

"The inaugural State of Play really underscores the fact that we’ve entered the next phase of streaming, based on the trends we have been detailing about streaming over the past few years," said Brian Fuhrer, senior VP, product strategy, Nielsen. "We’ve moved from infancy into adolescence, and all the complexities that one would expect at that point. It’s not just that streaming is increasing year over year. Now consumers want access simplified and the explosion of services has renewed discussions around bundling and aggregation. Ultimately, these challenges signal an opportunity as the industry harnesses streaming for long-term business growth.”

The State of Play report leverages Nielsen TV measurement and streaming data, insights from Gracenote, a Nielsen subsidiary, and findings from an online custom survey of U.S. video streamers. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.