Streaming Services Take Half of Top 10 Spots in Annual 'Must Keep TV' Report

A person streaming content on a mobile device
(Image credit: Netflix)

Streaming services captured half of the top 10 spots in Solutions Research Group’s 14th annual “Must Keep TV” report, with Netflix capturing the top spot for the second consecutive year and streamers like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Plus and HBO Max rounding out the list.

SRG based its research on 1,400 interviews conducted in May with consumers aged 12 and older.

Broadcaster ABC took the No. 2 spot for the second year in a row, followed by CBS, which also placed third last year. Amazon Prime Video rose from No. 6 in 2020 to the fourth spot this year, while NBC placed fifth, one spot lower than last year. Hulu moved up a place to No. 6 and Fox slipped to No. 7 from fifth place.

Disney Plus had the largest gain, vaulting from No. 13 in 2020 to No. 8 this year. Newcomer HBO Max (which launched on May 27)  placed ninth and ESPN finished tenth, two spots lower than its eighth palace showing last year.

Streamers also had strong showings throughout the rankings. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, launched nationwide last July, entered the rankings at No. 29 and Apple TV Plus finished at No. 33.  ViacomCBS’s Paramount Plus, which debuted in March, entered  at  No. 37.

According to SRG, TV brands that showed momentum in 2021 included History (up three spots to No. 12), HGTV (up three spots to No. 13), Comedy Central (which finished at No. 19, the first time it has cracked the top 20 since 2015) and Hallmark, which has steadily moved up the rankings since 2016 and finished 2021 at No. 20.

HBO Max’s success may have come at the expense of its linear brother, HBO. According to SRG, the HBO linear channel slipped to No. 25 in 2021 from No. 12 last year. 

And though 2021 was Netflix’s second year at the top of the overall Must Keep TV mountain, it has been tops among viewers aged 18-to-34 for five straight years, according to SRG. Streamers took four of the top 5 spots in that demographic, while among men aged 18-49 Netflix and Amazon Prime took the top two slots, with ABC being the most popular broadcaster and ESPN was the top cable network.

Across other demos, women favored Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu (Nos. 1, 2 and 3), while the top three for African-Americans were Netflix, ABC and Amazon Prime Video. Latinx consumers saw Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and ABC as their top three Must-Keep TV services. 

While streamers dominated the list, broadcast networks weren’t totally left out, but their grip is slipping. About 62% of those interviewed by SRG included at least one of the Big Four networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) on their Must See TV list in 2021. That ‘s down 15 points from the 77% that had at least one of the Big Four on their list 10 years ago.    

Meanwhile, streamers continue to gain ground. According to SRG, the top four streamers — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus — were seen as must-keep for 65% of those interviewed in 2021. Broadcast networks remained strong with older viewers, as 78% of respondents aged 50 or older identify at least one of the broadcast nets as a ”must keep“ vs. 47% for one of the top four streamers.

Solutions Research Group

(Image credit: SRG)
Mike Farrell

Mike Farrell is senior content producer, finance for Multichannel News/B+C, covering finance, operations and M&A at cable operators and networks across the industry. He joined Multichannel News in September 1998 and has written about major deals and top players in the business ever since. He also writes the On The Money blog, offering deeper dives into a wide variety of topics including, retransmission consent, regional sports networks,and streaming video. In 2015 he won the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Profile, an in-depth look at the Syfy Network’s Sharknado franchise and its impact on the industry.