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It wasn’t long ago that traditional MVPD set-top boxes were the go-to way for people to watch their favorite shows. In the space of just a few short years, though, online sources have grown to exceed traditional sources as the destination for viewers’ favorite shows and show no signs of stopping, per a study [download page] from Hub Entertainment Research.

In 2015, MVPD set-top boxes (which includes live TV, DVR and VOD) were where the majority (57%) of viewers went to watch their current favorite show. Fast-forward 4 years and that percentage has shrunk to just 35%. At the same time, online sources have increasingly become the destination for viewers’ favorite shows, steadily climbing from 43% of respondents in 2015 to 63% this year. And, as more pay-TV subscribers find themselves more willing to either cancel their services or cut them back, it’s likely this trend will continue.

Netflix is of course a crucial player. About one-third (34%) of the consumers surveyed report that they watch their favorite show on the streaming giant. This compares to 23% who watch it on live TV.

These figures have essentially flipped over the past few years: 35% of viewers said they watched their favorite new show on Live TV versus the 19% who watched on Netflix.

These findings differ somewhat when considering which form of viewing consumers choose as their default — the first thing they turn on when they want to watch. Another recent study by Hub Entertainment found that although it has decreased over the years, Live TV from MVPD remains single most common default source form of viewing for US adults.

What this suggests is that when it comes to new content, streaming services are beating out traditional players in appealing to viewers.

Original content – on which streaming services are spending big – is clearly making its mark. This latest study reveals that almost one-third (31%) of viewers have subscribed to an online TV service just to access a specific show. The percentage doubles (61%) for younger viewers (ages 16-24-years-old).

Past research has found that the majority of Netflix subscribers place great importance on the services’ ability to deliver original content, while another study found that subscribers cited the quality of original content one of the top benefits of a streaming video service.

As viewers increasingly gravitate to content over medium, streaming services’ success with original content has broad implications for that industry and also for the pay-TV industry.

The Golden Age of TV

No matter how viewers are watching, they’re more likely than ever to be watching content they like. Nearly three-fourths (72%) of respondents agree that more of their TV time than in the past is spent on shows they really like (up from 68% in 2018). A reason for this is that most respondents (53%) believe that there are more good shows to choose from today than in the past.

Viewers are also watching a wider array of shows than before. Last year, 36% of viewers agreed that their TV time was spread across more shows than in the past. The number of viewers who agree with that statement in 2019 has jumped to 48%.

Furthermore, convenience and accessibility are factors in choosing a viewing source, with more than half (52%) of viewers say they are more likely to be drawn to sources that make it easy to discover new shows they will like.

An excerpt of Hub Entertainment Research’s report is available for download here.

About the Data: Results are based on a survey of 2,016 US consumers, ages 16-74-years-old, with broadband. All respondents watched at least one hour of TV per week.

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