How Americans Are Watching TV

June 20, 2014

Harris-How-Americans-Regularly-Watch-TV-Shows-June2014Roughly 3 in 4 American adults regularly watch TV shows live via cable or satellite TV, while streaming (43%) and recorded TV (37%) are also popular choices, per results from a Harris Interactive survey. But for Millennials (aged 18-36), the TV viewing experience has changed, with a slightly larger proportion saying they regularly watch TV shows via streaming (67%) than via cable or satellite (62%). While Millennials are the most likely to be streaming content, they’re slightly less likely than the average adult to regularly watch recorded content.

For the time being, non-streaming methods of watching TV continue to outweigh streaming methods overall, even for Millennials. About two-thirds most often watch TV programs on TV, via live feed, recorded programming, or on-demand service, while slightly fewer than half claim to most often watch shows via streaming on any device.

Not surprisingly, the inclination to watch TV the traditional way increases alongside age, while the opposite is true for streaming behavior. Live TV remains the single most popular way to watch TV programs, aligning with recent research from Ipsos and BroadStream Solutions, which separately found that live TV remains popular among Americans.

Meanwhile, the Harris Interactive survey finds that among those adults who watch TV shows via streaming, the computer (laptop or desktop) remains the device of choice for each generation save for Matures (68+), who are more likely to stream on their TV, whether that’s via a set-top streaming box, game system, or smart TV. Four in 10 Millennial who stream do so via their smartphone, compared to just 8% of Matures.

Interestingly, respondents overall don’t report a heavy increase in streaming: just 23% said they are watching more online or streaming TV programming than a year ago, with 37% saying their viewing activity hasn’t changed. Some 37% of Millennials are watching more online or streaming TV, though, against 12% watching less.

Millennials are also the most likely to say they expect to be watching more online or streaming TV programming a year from now. But even so, just one-quarter say that’s the case, while a majority 54% feel their consumption won’t change.

About 8 in 10 respondents said they multitask while watching TV, a figure comparable with recent research from Deloitte, which found 86% of Americans aged 14 and older to be multitaskers. Half of Millennials said they go on a social networking site while watching TV, while one-third shop online.

See here for a detailed analysis of traditional TV consumption by age group.

About the Data: This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,300 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.


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