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AltmanVilandrie Channel Surfing Online Video v Live TV Jan2020Although the majority of viewers know what they want to watch and where they want to watch before they sit down in front of their TV or computer, there are many who don’t and flip through content (surfing) to find what’s right for them. A new survey from Altman Vilandrie & Company finds that channel surfing – traditionally a legacy TV activity – may be migrating to subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services.

When asked which form of video they are more likely to watch when they do not have a plan for what to watch, slightly more than half (51%) of the more than 3,300 adults surveyed (all of whom watch live TV, online video or video-on-demand) choose to watch online video services, while the remaining 49% turn to live pay-TV. This shift towards defaulting to online video services is likely due to more and more of viewers’ favorite shows being found online through services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu.

Aligning with the trend of younger audiences spending more time with online video services, the survey found that two-thirds (66%) of 18-24-year-olds and 64% of 25-34-year-olds say they turn to online video services when they are surfing for something to watch. Conversely, older adults remain more likely to look to live pay-TV when searching for a show, with 52% of 45-54-year-olds and 64% of adults 55+ choosing that option.

The reasons for continuing to subscribe to live pay-TV instead of relying only on online video vary. Being able to watch live news is important to 80% of respondents ages 35+, making this the key benefit of live pay-TV for this demographic. However, this has more muted importance to younger adults (51%), who instead are more keen on being able to watch new TV episodes when they are first broadcast (57%).

Other reasons for not cutting the cord shared by adults both older and younger than 35 include the importance of live sports, and feelings that live pay-TV is both more convenient to use and easier for content discovery.

And as proof that pay-TV is still an able player even as an influx of original content is being produced by online video services, a large majority of the Top 30 must-have TV programs identified by survey respondents are found first on pay-TV.

About the Data: Results are based on a survey of more than 5,000 US adults conducted in August 2019.

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