Linear TV Loses Half Its Viewers As Streaming Services Soar

September 26, 2019 Author: Mario X. Carrasco

It’s true. Within just three years, linear TV has lost nearly half its viewers. What factors are driving the shift, and how can marketers adapt to -- and profit from -- the changes?
Our nationwide survey of consumers’ media consumption habits on platforms such as live TV, streaming services, gaming, and social media produced several useful insights.

Viewers are “Streaming” to Quality Content

Despite losing subscribers for the first time in eight years -- and no doubt aided by the drastic decline of live television -- Netflix remains the preferred method (61%) for watching TV programs among U.S. consumers, followed closely by YouTube.

Players like Hulu are also gaining viewers, with popular original programming such as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and a just-announced Disney+ bundle that includes Hulu and ESPN+ for $12 a month, set to launch in November.

Convenience Drives the Shift to Streaming

Convenience is still the top reason consumers prefer streaming methods over cable or satellite. For Gen Z, virtually born with connected devices in hand, streaming is the preferred viewing method by far.

Highly anticipated streaming services from recognized brands like Apple will proffer even more choices. If these options live up to expectations, it could spell disaster for linear TV and cable/satellite.

Another factor impacting cable/satellite is insufficient programming. DirectTV, for example, recently dropped CBS-owned stations in select markets after the network and AT&T failed to reach a new agreement. The biggest loser? Consumers. As their paid-for channels go dark, the solution for many will be to drop cable/satellite and start streaming content when and where they please.

Habit may be all that’s keeping cable/satellite in play since switching on the TV is second nature for older generations.

On a positive note, cable/satellite companies’ continued investment in Spanish-language content is paying off. But is it enough to retain cable subscribers?

Gaming and Social Continue a Steady Climb

Streaming isn’t the only media seeing an uptick in usage. Gaming and social media enjoy a dedicated following and have become increasingly mobile.

Gaming on consoles and desktops dropped from 41% in 2017 to just under 30% in 2019 and will likely continue to decline as younger generations use mobile devices for online gaming.

Social media users spend nearly two and a half hours a day on social media, and 40% of users aged 18-22 say they’re addicted to it.

Brands take note: Gen Y is the least trustful of brands on social media. To elude brand targeting, they use private social media apps such as WhatsApp.

What It All Means

Live TV, while clearly in decline, still enjoys a fair percentage of the total market. But as consumers play “musical chairs” with online options, marketers and content creators have a unique opportunity to observe what works and what elicits a collective "meh" from consumers, and then apply these insights to create audience-pleasing content and offers that rise above the din. The music hasn’t stopped yet.

This blog post was originally published on MediaPost