Cable is King but Streaming Stands Strong When it Comes to Americans’ TV Viewing Habits

    New York, N.Y. – June 18, 2014 – Do you still call it watching TV when you’re not actually using a TV to do it? That’s a question that may be coming up more and more today, given the increasing use of streaming as a viewership option. While over three-fourths of U.S. adults (77%) say they regularly watch television shows via either cable (55%) or satellite TV (23%), over four in ten say they regularly watch via streaming (43%) including two-thirds of Millennials (67%).

    What’s more, streaming seems to be slowly gaining ground on more traditional modes when it comes to the ways Americans most often watch television programs (though it’s in no danger of overtaking them in the immediate future). At 85%, the percentage of Americans saying they most often watch TV on, well, a TV (live feed, recorded or on demand), sans streaming, is down from 89% in 2012. Streaming, meanwhile, is up from 20% in 2012 to 23% today. This preferential shift is strongest when looking at Millennials, among whom non-streaming TV preference has declined from 77% to 68% while streaming preference has grown from 41% to 47%.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,300 U.S. adults surveyed online between April 16 and 21, 2014.

    Nearly a quarter of Americans (23%) say they’re watching more online/streaming television programming now than they were a year ago, while 37% say their online/streaming viewership is no different than last year and 7% say they’re watching less this way now than a year ago. Looking ahead, nearly two in ten (18%) expect to be watching more online/streaming television programming a year from now while 4% expect to be watching less and half (50%) don’t anticipate a change.

    Gotta see it

    Both premium cable networks and streaming services are hard at work trying to make themselves indispensable through exclusive content, but how much is this impacting consumer behaviors? Nearly four in ten Americans (38%) say they’ve subscribed to premium cable channels in order to watch specific shows, while one-fourth (24%) have subscribed to one or more streaming services for the same reason.

    • Looking specifically at streaming TV’s likely core constituents, half (50%) of those who list streaming among their top go-to’s for television shows say they’ve subscribed to streaming services for access to specific shows. AdditionallyÉ
      • Six in ten streaming-dominant viewers would like to be able to watch TV pilots and vote on what gets ordered as a full series (60%).
      • Four in ten (40%) would be willing to pay extra for a service that allowed them to stream current shows ad-free.
      • 37% would pay more for a streaming service that allowed them to temporarily download TV episodes, for when they’re away from an Internet connection.

    How are streamersÉ wellÉ streaming?

    Among those who regularly watch television shows via streaming, three-fourths (74%) use a computer to do so, while just over half (55%) use a television (whether via a set-top box, a game system or a television with integrated online capabilities).

    • Nearly four in ten (37%) watch on tablets, including more than six in ten tablet owners (63%).
    • Three in ten (30%) watch on smartphones, including just over four in ten smartphone owners (42%).

    Attention deficit

    Distracted viewing continues to be the norm, with nearly eight in ten U.S. adults (78%) saying they’re ever doing other things while watching TV. More specifically, more than six in ten (63%) engage in online activities; over one-third (35%) text, three in ten (30%) read a book, magazine or newspaper, and 7% read a book on an electronic reading device. 22% say they do other things.

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    TABLE 1

    WAYS YOU REGULARLY WATCH TELEVISION SHOWS

    In which of the following ways do you regularly watch television shows?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total

    Generation

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Cable/Satellite (real time) [NET]

    77

    62

    76

    85

    89

    Cable TV provider (in real time as the program is aired)

    55

    46

    50

    61

    69

    Satellite TV provider (in real time as the program is aired)

    23

    19

    27

    25

    22

    Streaming [NET]

    43

    67

    44

    32

    14

    Streaming via websites [NET]

    33

    55

    33

    22

    9

    Streaming via apps [NET]

    24

    39

    23

    16

    8

    Streaming via non-network-affiliated websites/apps [NET]

    28

    49

    28

    19

    9

    Streaming via network-owned websites/apps [NET]

    28

    44

    32

    19

    7

    By purchasing or renting episodes or seasons through a video on demand service (such as iTunes or Amazon)

    7

    8

    10

    6

    3

    Tivo, DVR or other recording device (recorded and then viewed later)

    37

    33

    40

    39

    34

    On-demand content through cable or satellite provider

    27

    25

    32

    27

    25

    By purchasing, renting or borrowing episodes or seasons on DVD

    19

    24

    21

    18

    8

    Over the air using an antenna (Broadcast TV)

    14

    12

    21

    13

    8

    Other

    3

    5

    2

    2

    3

    Not applicable – I don’t watch television programs

    4

    7

    4

    1

    1

    Note: Multiple responses accepted.

     


    TABLE 2

    DEVICES EVER USE TO STREAM TV PROGRAMS

    By Generation, Gender & Children in Household

    Which of the following devices do you use to watch television programs online or via the Internet? Please select all that apply.

    Base: U.S. adults who watch TV shows via streaming

    Total

    Generation

    Devices Owned

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Smartphone

    Tablet

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Computer (laptop or desktop)

    74

    78

    81

    64

    58

    74

    70

    TV [NET]

    55

    57

    44

    58

    65

    56

    63

    Television, via set-top streaming box (Roku, Apple TV, etc.) or game system

    40

    41

    35

    42

    40

    41

    45

    Television with integrated online capabilities (Smart TV)

    23

    24

    15

    27

    28

    25

    27

    Tablet (iPad, Kindle Fire, etc.)

    37

    38

    36

    34

    36

    43

    63

    Smartphone

    30

    40

    28

    20

    8

    42

    35

    Other

    4

    2

    5

    7

    2

    4

    3

    Note: Multiple responses allowed.

     


    TABLE 3

    WAYS MOST OFTEN WATCH TELEVISION PROGRAMS

    By Generation, Gender & Children in HH

    Out of all the ways you watch television programs, in what way or ways do you most often do so?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total 2012

    Total 2014

    Generation

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    2012

    2014

    2012

    2014

    2012

    2014

    2012

    2014

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    On TV, Non-Streaming [NET]

    89

    85

    77

    68

    90

    88

    95

    94

    97

    97

    On TV – live feed (watching as it is broadcast, whether via cable, satellite or over the air)

    56

    56

    44

    40

    54

    58

    66

    65

    63

    67

    On TV – programming recorded on a DVR or other device

    32

    30

    30

    26

    42

    35

    31

    28

    24

    34

    On TV – via cable or satellite on-demand service

    29

    26

    23

    21

    26

    26

    32

    28

    41

    31

    Streaming [NET]

    20

    23

    41

    47

    14

    22

    9

    12

    7

    4

    Streaming on any device (TV, computer, tablet, smartphone) – ad free

    10

    14

    21

    28

    6

    12

    5

    6

    4

    2

    Streaming on any device (TV, computer, tablet, smartphone) – with advertising

    12

    12

    27

    25

    9

    11

    4

    7

    3

    2

    Not applicable – I do not watch television programs

    3

    4

    4

    7

    4

    4

    2

    3

    1

    2

    Note: Multiple responses accepted.

     

    TABLE 4

    ONLINE/STREAMING VIEWERSHIP VS. A YEAR AGO

    How would you describe your online or streaming television program viewership?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total 2012

    Total 2014

    Generation

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    I am watching more online or streaming television programming now than I was a year ago

    20

    23

    37

    25

    15

    10

    No different

    39

    37

    36

    44

    37

    27

    I am watching less online or streaming television programming than I was a year ago

    9

    7

    12

    6

    4

    6

    Not applicable – I do not watch any television programming online

    32

    33

    16

    25

    43

    56

    Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

     

     


    TABLE 5

    ANTICIPATED ONLINE/STREAMING VIEWERSHIP ONE YEAR FROM NOW

    How much online or streaming television programming do you expect to be watching a year from now, in comparison to right now?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total 2013

    Total 2014

    Generation

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    I expect to be watching more online or streaming television programming a year from now

    19

    18

    26

    23

    12

    7

    No different

    54

    50

    54

    54

    48

    41

    I expect to be watching less online or streaming television programming a year from now

    5

    4

    8

    2

    3

    1

    Not applicable – I do not watch any television programming online

    22

    27

    11

    20

    37

    50

    Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding.


    TABLE 6

    OTHER ACTIVITIES WHILE WATCHING TV

    Which of the following, if any, do you ever do while watching TV?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total 2013

    Total 2014

    Generation

    Most often watch TV showsÉ

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    On TV, non-streaming

    Via streaming

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Doing any other things [NET]

    81

    78

    85

    78

    75

    73

    80

    83

    Online [SUB-NET]

    65

    63

    76

    69

    58

    38

    64

    74

    Surf the Internet using a computer

    51

    40

    47

    49

    36

    25

    41

    51

    Go on a social networking site

    35

    34

    49

    40

    25

    16

    33

    46

    Shop online

    27

    26

    34

    28

    24

    11

    27

    35

    Surf the Internet using my mobile phone

    [% among smartphone owners]

    21

    23

    [38%]

    42

    28

    11

    2

    22

    37

    Surf the Internet on a tablet (e.g., iPad, Xoom)

    [% among tablet owners]

    15

    19

    [41%]

    24

    18

    19

    10

    20

    24

    Text

    35

    35

    58

    41

    22

    12

    35

    51

    Read a book, magazine or newspaper

    37

    30

    25

    28

    31

    44

    32

    27

    Read a book on an eReader device

    11

    7

    6

    5

    8

    11

    8

    5

    Something else

    25

    22

    22

    19

    21

    27

    23

    23

    None

    17

    19

    11

    19

    24

    25

    19

    17

    Not applicable – I do not watch television

    2

    3

    4

    3

    1

    1

     

     

    Note: Multiple responses allowed; indicates a selection rate of <.5%


    TABLE 7a

    AGREE/DISAGREE WITH STATEMENTS

    Summary Grid

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. adults

    AGREE (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    DISAGREE (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    I’d like to be able to watch TV pilots and vote on what gets ordered as a full series.

    51

    16

    35

    49

    19

    30

    I have subscribed to premium cable channels in order to watch specific shows.

    38

    15

    22

    62

    14

    48

    I’d be willing to pay more for a service that allowed me to stream current shows ad-free.

    27

    5

    21

    73

    26

    48

    I have subscribed to one or more streaming services in order to watch specific shows.

    24

    7

    17

    76

    15

    61

    I’d pay more for a streaming service that allowed me to temporarily download TV episodes, for when I’m away from an Internet connection.

    23

    4

    18

    77

    24

    54

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

     

     

     

    TABLE 7b

    AGREE WITH STATEMENTS

    How strongly do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Total

    Generation

    Most often watch TV showsÉ

    Millennials (18-36)

    Gen Xers (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    On TV, non-streaming

    Via streaming

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    I’d like to be able to watch TV pilots and vote on what gets ordered as a full series.

    51

    63

    55

    43

    38

    51

    60

    I have subscribed to premium cable channels in order to watch specific shows.

    38

    37

    42

    37

    36

    40

    29

    I’d be willing to pay more for a service that allowed me to stream current shows ad-free.

    27

    41

    31

    18

    12

    25

    40

    I have subscribed to one or more streaming services in order to watch specific shows.

    24

    43

    25

    14

    7

    20

    50

    I’d pay more for a streaming service that allowed me to temporarily download TV episodes, for when I’m away from an Internet connection.

    23

    36

    27

    13

    9

    21

    37

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between April 16 and 21, 2014 among 2,300 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

     

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

     

    The Harris Poll #57, June 18, 2014

    By Larry Shannon-Missal, Manager, Harris Poll Content

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.