CSG: Viewers 'Streaming' to Online Options

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association's rebranding of its annual show to "Internet" and "television" was clearly the right way to go if a new survey has it right.

According to just-released findings, 80% of video streamers subscribe to at least one streaming service in addition to, or instead of, a pay TV service from a cable, satellite or IPTV company.

The survey, commissioned by CSG International, which helps companies set up and cash in on online distribution, also found that 79% of streamers primarily stream to their TV sets.

Among millennials, more than half spend more time watching Internet video on their TVs than traditional TV programming.

Almost three-quarters (72%) said sports programming is the most important to stream.

"[S]treaming services with the highest subscription rates offer original content and sports content," the study found. "To align with these trends, the ability to offer new skinny bundles and innovative OTT-like services will become increasingly important for pay TV providers."

Streamers said they are watching more than 26 hours of online television each week, with half of that on services including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

The report concludes the way to get a bigger piece of that online video action is "not by an intensifying price war, but by offering more options for packaging and pricing the specific content that streamers want."

"Personalize the bundle," CSG said. "Provide a user experience on par with the most popular competitors, making content transportable across devices and providing enhanced features like recommendations and search, not only for a single service but across as many distinct services through partnerships wherever possible.

"Offer aggregated billing, discounting and payment options to the all-important subscribers of more than one service or type of content," the report advised.

Millennials see decreasing value in traditional pay services, the survey found, and 20% said they planned to switch, downgrade or disconnect their pay services in the next six months.

They also are the biggest commercial skippers (via bathroom breaks and snack runs in particular). "Among those 18-24, 43% always or often avoid commercials, compared to 35% of the general population," the study said

In a finding that could buoy, at least slightly, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's push for uniting video services in a single access device, 48% said they would "greatly value" centralized search across all their paid subscriptions, regardless of provider. (But cable operators note they are already launching apps that can reside side-by-side with other online services on, say, a Roku platform, just not disaggregated program streams and data, as the chairman has proposed.)

The survey was conducted in January among 1,900 randomly chosen adult broadband users who stream video -- short- or long-form, free or paid service -- on one or more connected devices.

CSG clients include Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Dish Network, ESPN and Verizon.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.