Viewers Nearly as Likely to Go Online First for TV

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Consumers are nearly as likely to turn to an online video source first when they decide to watch TV as they are to go to a traditional pay-TV provider, according to a new study from Hub Entertainment Research.

In a new report, called Decoding the Default, Hub found that 47% of consumers said they first go to a pay-TV set-top box for TV, while 45% default to an online source. Hub called the result a statistical tie.

Since last year, consumers going to pay-TV first dropped 7 percentage points, while those going online to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others rose 7 points.

Hub, which has been tracking how viewers watch entertainment content since 2013, also said that linear viewing from a cable, satellite or telco subscription has reached its lowest level as a default source of TV.

In the survey, one third of consumers said the first thing they turn on to watch is linear TV from their traditional pay-TV service.

The percentage defaulting to linear TV has dropped 14 points in the last three years.

Hub said that the upcoming Disney+ streaming service could become a default source for many consumers.

Consumer with kids and the majority of current Netflix subscribers, rated the $6.99 a month service from Disney as an excellent or good value.

“With its low monthly price point and proposed variety of content, it’s not surprising that consumers in Disney+’s crosshairs—households with kids and Netflix subscribers—see it as offering strong value for the money,” said Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study.

“Whether its value proposition is strong enough to make Disney+ viewers’ first stop for TV is of course yet to be seen. But by bundling Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+, the combined package stands to tick off many of the boxes consumers consider must-haves for a default service,” he said.

The report found that some consumers are already saturated with video choices.

"We’ve seen in our other studies that many consumers won’t add a new service—like Disney + or HBO Max—without cancelling an existing service," according to the report. “The services they decide to hold onto are most likely to be the ones they consider their TV home base.”

Hub conducted its research with 1,678 U.S. consumers who have broadband and watch at least one hour of TV per week. The research was done in August.

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.