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More Americans Streaming Than Watching Pay TV, Survey Finds

Multiscreen video streaming
(Image credit: Future)

A new poll said that an important tipping point has been reached, with more Americans saying they’ve streamed TV or movies in the past month than watched cable and satellite TV.

TransUnion Merkle

(Image credit: TransUnion)

According to the survey, conducted by The Harris Poll for TransUnion, the credit agency that has gotten into the connected TV ad business through a series of acquisitions, 70% of Americans who watched TV between mid-November and mid-December said they streamed programming, compared to just 56% saying they watched cable or satellite with 67% of those who watched both streaming and pay TV agreeing they’ rather be streaming.

When it comes to finding something to watch, 70% who watch both said there is enough programming on streaming services for them to completely replace cable and satellite.

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The trend is even more pronounced among viewers under 35 years old, among whom just 36% said they used cable or satellite to watch TV in the past month, compared to 84% who streamed programming.

Consumers said they are more likely to turn to streaming when the are looking for something new to watch, to escape and lose themselves in a program, to relax and unwind or to really pay attention to a program.

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When it comes to watching the news, 50% said they turn to cable and satellite, compared to 33% who chose streaming.

The poll says that the shift to streaming is good for advertisers because of higher content engagement and shorter ad break.

A majority (58%) said they prefer ad-supported TV services to paying for ad free services (42%), and 33%.of those who watch both streaming and pay TV said they pay more attention to commercials on streaming, compared to 22% who do so while watching cable or satellite.

Among consumers under 45 years old who both stream and watch cable and satellite, 47% said they pay more attention to the ads while streaming, compared to 23% who said cable or satellite.

More consumers said streaming has more engaging and interactive commercials than pay TV. While streaming they watch the ads because they’re really engaged with the programming. Consumers also complain about seeing the same commercials over and over on cable and satellite more than via streaming.

“As consumers stream across connected devices, their digital footprints allow for precise audience-based targeting, rather than program-based buys,” the report noted.

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The report also notes that identifying viewers plays a key role in addressing the challenges a fragmented streaming market pose. Consumers are tough to identify because more than half watched more than six channels in the past month, 38% have more than one brand of smart TV in their home and 45%% have three or more streaming-capable sets in their homes.

“It’s clear that streaming television generates more interest among viewers across content and ads, making free, ad-supported streaming TV channels critical to advertisers. Streaming viewing time will soon eclipse traditional TV, and with tens of millions of streaming-only households already, advertisers need the right tools to identify and reach audiences through streaming channels,” said Matt Spiegel, executive VP of Media and Entertainment Vertical at TransUnion.

Fortunately, TransUnion notes that its data marketplace can help advertisers link people, households and devices.

“Consumers are telling us how they want to watch TV, and that is increasingly on streaming services. It’s now up to our industry to deliver the seamless, engaging TV ad experiences streaming enables. It starts with being able to recognize consumers across platforms and devices. That will require advertisers, media companies and ad tech platforms to evolve toward an identity infrastructure for TV that serves the needs of all constituents,” said David Wiesenfeld, Lead Strategist, Media and Entertainment Vertical at TransUnion.

The survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of TransUnion between December 9-13, 2021 among 2,043 adults ages 18+, among whom 1,878 watch TV. ■

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.