If you’re following media coverage of the “streaming wars” these days, you might think that the viewers have all but abandoned traditional TV. But Nielsen’s February 2020 Total Audience Report illustrates that this is far from the current situation. In fact, it’s still very early innings for OTT, which in turn suggests that if you think streaming is big already, well then - you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Nielsen reports that in Q4 ’19 streaming accounted for just 19% of total TV usage time. Within that 19% streaming slice, Nielsen found that, no surprise, Netflix has the biggest piece (31%), followed by YouTube (21%), Hulu (12%) and Amazon (8%). Nielsen didn’t break out any other individual service that collectively amount for 28%.
Then translating each streaming service’s into its % of TV usage (remember, ALL streaming accounts for 19%), means Netflix accounts for 5.9% of TV usage, YouTube (4%), Hulu (2.3%), Amazon (1.5%) and others (5.3%).
At this point I’m guessing some readers are thinking “That can’t be right, it seems like all my spouse and I ever watch now is Netflix,” or “This is way too low, we cut the cord 7 months ago and now only use OTT services” or “But my 10 year old son is glued to his phone watching YouTube all night” or some variation of these thoughts. Then there’s cord-cutting, which accelerated in 2019 and will likely further accelerate in 2020. Inexpensive, top-notch streaming services and high-profile content continue to proliferate. 19% just seems too low to pass the smell test.
In this context I’ll admit the 19% is somewhat confounding, especially since Nielsen itself said “60% of Americans subscribe to more than one paid video streaming service.” Reviewing the data tables in the full report, it’s hard to discern exactly how the 19% is calculated. But in the age breakdowns, there’s no question that in the 18-49 age group, use of TV-connected devices as a proportion of total use of TV is much higher than for other age groups.
Nielsen said the 19% is among “OTT-capable homes” (back in March, ’19, Nielsen itself said that 68% of U.S. households have a connected TV while other research has pegged it as high as 74%, all the way back in June, 2018). So one question is to what extent are cord-cutting households represented in the 19% slice? Related, are vMVPD households included, and if so, is their viewing is considered “streaming?”
However you choose to look at the 19%, one thing is for sure: it’s only going in one direction from here, which is up. Despite all the media coverage, it is still very early innings for viewers moving to an all-streaming diet. A years-long, if not decades-long - shift to streaming is underway and it’s inexorable. This is one of the reasons I’m so optimistic about YouTube, and about the whole CTV advertising category.
The Nielsen number may strike some as a head-scratcher, but the overall industry trends are fully intact.