How Do US Adults Think TV Shows Have Changed in the Past 15 Years?

May 27, 2022

Almost 4 in 10 (38% of) US adults have felt at some point like they’ve had a hard time choosing what to watch due to being overwhelmed by the number of options, according to a YouGov survey [pdf], but fewer than one-quarter (23%) think that we’re currently in the “golden age of television.”

The results bring to mind recent research from TiVo, in which 6 in 10 viewers in the US and Canada said that it’s too hard to find good TV or movies to watch.

That’s not for want of trying, though. Almost 8 in 10 respondents to the YouGov survey said they’re watching either more (23%) or about the same amount (56%) of TV now as they were early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Adults ages 30-44 are the most likely to say they’re watching more TV now, with almost 4 in 10 (37%) professing that to be the case. That’s roughly double the share of 45-64-year-olds (18%) who said the same, and about triple the share of those ages 65 and older (12%).

TV Content Preferences

The survey reveals some interesting attitudes towards TV content. For one, about half (49%) of respondents who are watching TV more than ever prefer TV shows where all the episodes are released at once as opposed to shows where episodes are released weekly (30%). (The remaining 21% are unsure.) This view is held across age groups, with the exception of adults ages 65 and older, who are split on their preferences for shows released all at once (39%) or weekly (40%).

A plurality (46%) of adults who are watching more TV than ever, meanwhile, prefer hour-long episodes over 30-minute episodes (19%) or others (such as longer, shorter, or of varying length). Preference for half-hour episodes is highest among 18-29-year-olds (30%), while for hour-long episodes it’s highest among the 65+ bracket (57%).

The Streaming Experience

Among adults currently using streaming video services, 58% are very (11%) or somewhat (47%) satisfied with the personalized show recommendations that these services make for them, with this figure highest among the youngest adults (64%). In fact, streaming service recommendations are one of the top ways by which people find streaming video content, according to previous research.

An even larger majority (72%) of streaming video service users are very (23%) or somewhat (49%) satisfied with the interface design and usability of the services that they use, with this attitude largely consistent across age groups. The ease of use of streaming services has been found to be the leading reason why people are attracted to streaming video.

How TV Shows Have Changed

About 7 in 10 respondents either strongly (33%) or somewhat (38%) agree that the emergence of streaming has increased the number of different types of TV shows that are produced. Streaming has led to another change, though: a slim majority (53%) also agree that it has made TV watching less of a communal activity. Interestingly, younger adults are more likely than their older counterparts to agree that the emergence of streaming has atomized TV viewing.

In terms of the type of content produced, adults had differing opinions regarding the extent that, compared to 15 years ago, TV shows produced today are more or less likely to:

  • Be created for niche audiences (53% more likely; 11% less likely)
  • Contain original ideas (29% more likely; 35% less likely)
  • Feature diverse stories and casts (65% more likely; 9% less likely)
  • Contain offensive content (61% more likely; 11% less likely)
  • Contain nudity or violence (65% more likely; 10% less likely)
  • Be produced in foreign countries (47% more likely; 11% less likely)
  • Contain foreign languages (51% more likely; 10% less likely)
  • Contain morally complex characters (53% more likely; 13% less likely)

Head on over here for the full survey results.

About the Data: The results are based on an April survey of 1,000 US adults (18+).

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