Linear TV Enjoys Slight Bounce Back in the US

March 22, 2022

Time spent watching traditional TV is on the decline in the US, as many streaming subscribers are using those services to replace linear TV viewing. Even as streaming becomes more popular than traditional TV, though, the latter has experienced a slight resurgence during the second year of the pandemic, per figures contained in a recent AudienceProject report [download page].

The study indicates that 61% of US consumers surveyed watched linear TV on a weekly basis in 2021, a figure slightly up from 59% the year prior. The US wasn’t the only country in which this small bounce took place: each of the Nordic countries surveyed (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland) also experienced an uptick in linear TV reach. However, reach was down in both the UK and Germany.

The figures are supported by MarketingCharts’ own research [purchase page], which likewise found that weekly traditional TV viewing was higher in 2021 than during the year earlier.

Interestingly, attitudes to TV advertising also improved to a degree. In the US, 46% of respondents surveyed last year said that the ads they saw when watching linear TV were irrelevant to them, with this down markedly from 64% who said the same a year earlier. A hefty 91% said in 2021 that they see the same as too many times when watching linear TV, but even this was a point down from 2020 (92%).

Additionally, while only one-third (34%) of respondents in 2020 said they saw themselves watching linear TV in 5 years, that figure improved to 44% in 2021.

Streaming Reach Remains Higher

Despite all of this, considerably more people in the US said they streamed video on a weekly basis than watched linear TV, with 77% reporting having streamed or downloaded TV, series, or movies on a weekly basis. The gap in reach between linear TV and streaming TV is particularly large for 15-55-year-olds, with 54% and 84%, respectively, tuning in weekly.

Asked about their viewing trends, 1 in 5 respondents in the US were found to have watched less linear TV last year and streamed or downloaded more TV, series, or movies. Three in 10 don’t watch linear TV but do watch streaming or downloaded video.

Other Findings

The report also reveals that:

  • The popularity of Hulu and HBO Max rose in the US last year
  • Netflix and Amazon Prime Video continued to be the most subscribed to services
  • Within the US, movies (60%) and series (59%) are the most common types of content viewed when watching linear TV, followed by news (51%) and sports (43%)
  • 7 in 10 US respondents use other devices while watching TV

About the Data: The results are based on a Q4 2021 survey of more than 7,000 respondents across the US, UK, Germany,Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.

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