Streaming overtakes cable for the first time for top viewership - The UpStream

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Streaming overtakes cable for the first time for top viewership

posted Tuesday Aug 22, 2023 by Scott Ertz

According to a Nielsen report, streaming services overtook traditional television services for the first time ever. These non-traditional services accounted for the majority of viewership across nearly all demographics, as well as the overall numbers. This shows a significant change in the industry just as streaming companies are raising prices again.

Changing viewership trends

Viewership trends have been changing for years. One of the primary factors leading to this change has been price. Even together, the price of streaming services was significantly less than the price of cable. So, by dumping cable and swapping to Netflix and Hulu (the original pair) you could save a ton of money. The draw of these savings created the cord-cutter movement (and the term itself). As time has gone on, more people have been drawn into the allure of these cord-cutter savings.

Another reason for the change in viewership has been convenience. With traditional television, programming is by appointment only. Sure, you can purchase or lease a DVR from your cable company, but you have to be ahead of the show in order to record it. If you miss setting up the DVR, it's behind you and you have to find another way to watch. However, with streaming services, you can watch on your schedule even if you didn't know about the show when it was new. Appointment television has become a thing of the past with streaming services.

The switch to streaming

The numbers are in for July and things have definitely changed. The top way for people to consume television was not on broadcast or cable, but instead through streaming for the first time. For July 2023, streaming accounted for 38.7% of all consumption, cable accounted for 29.6%, and broadcast accounted for 20%. So, while broadcast and cable together overtake streaming, individually they sit below streaming as a genre.

Within the streaming category, YouTube took the top spot, Netflix took spot 2, and Hulu took spot 3. These numbers are not surprising, as they are in the order of initial service release. YouTube sits in a slightly different category for most viewers, as user-generated content is why most people are there. However, Netflix and Hulu, being the original popular pair of streaming services, are seen as the primary go-to services today. Below them sit Prime Video, Disney Plus, and Max (formerly HBO Max). These new kids on the block have gained a lot of traction, but have also seen steep declines in subscriptions in recent months.

Can this last?

A large part of the increase in streaming viewership has been kids on summer vacation watching YouTube. The top service is popular among kids and their parents for the amount of free content available that is kid safe. With kids back in school, it is possible that we will see cable retake the top spot for August or September.

Another factor in a possible swap back to cable television is the raising prices across most of the streaming industry. Many families are going to have to choose between services, or possibly even switching back to cable as their primary television content provider. So, while streaming has finally eclipsed cable, it might be a short-lived trend.


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