Live TV is the Default Viewing Source for Just 1 in 8 Young Americans

October 3, 2022

Traditional TV viewing has been on the decline among young Americans for some time now, but new data [excerpt download page] from Hub Entertainment Research illustrates the extent to which streaming has come to dominate video entertainment for youth.

The annual survey asks respondents what their default source is for TV – the first source they turn on when they’re ready to watch. Just 12% of the 18-34-year-olds surveyed said they turn first to live TV from an MVPD. That’s less than one-third of those who turn first to Netflix (38%).

Similar trends are being seen among teens. In a recent survey, teens estimated spending 30% of their daily video time with Netflix, as opposed to just 6% with cable TV.

The Hub research results reveal a dramatic schism in default viewing when sorting by age. For respondents ages 55 and older, half (50%) turn to live TV as their first option, compared to just 8% who turn on Netflix first.

For the more middle-aged group (35-54), meanwhile, live TV (25%) is sustaining a narrow lead over Netflix (21%) as the first option.

There are of course other streaming options besides Netflix, and they’re growing in stature. Overall, 16% share of respondents turn to one of the other Big 5 streaming services (Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, or HBO Max) as their first port of call for TV viewing, up from 15% last year and 11% the year prior. This growth is being fueled by 35-54-year-olds, who are increasingly defaulting to one of these services.

The percentage of respondents overall who default to live TV continues to gradually fall, down to 28% this year, though that remains ahead of Netflix (23% share) for the time being.

Aggregating all the sources together, and it’s clear that the years-long trend towards streaming services continues unabated. This latest edition of the survey finds that 57% default to an online source (any online/OTT source) when they’re ready to watch, up from 55% last year, 50% in 2020, and 47% in 2019.

By contrast, just 38% turn first to a pay-TV source (live, DVR, or video-on-demand), down from 39% last year, 42% in 2020 and 48% in 2019.

Hub points out that at a time when subscriptions are under threat, being the default choice can significantly contribute to subscriber loyalty. When viewers were asked which service they would keep if they could only retain one, viewers who defaulted to a particular service were far more likely to name that platform than any other.

Other Highlights:

  • The 35-54 age group is 7% points less likely this year than last to default to live TV, whether from a MVPD or VMVPD source (31%, down from 38%).
  • The share of 18-34-year-olds defaulting to Netflix has grown by 7% points this year, from 31% to 38%.
  • Some 22% of 18-34-year-olds default to one of the big 5 other than Netflix, but this is down from 24% last year.
  • This year 27% of respondents named their default viewing device to be the TV set through built-in smart TV apps. That figure is up from 22% last year and just 10% the year before, likely the result of continued smart TV penetration in TV homes.
  • While TV households most commonly use a combination of streaming and traditional services (68% share), this year streaming-only households outnumber traditional-only households (22% and 10% share, respectively).

About the Data: The results are based on an August survey of 1,600 TV consumers ages 16-74 who have broadband at home and who watch at least one hour of TV per week.

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