TV Viewing Continues to Shift Online

Online video streaming jumps 60% from previous quarter

Amid declining television ratings, Nielsen is reporting that more Americans are consuming TV shows online than through traditional channels.

According to The Wall Street Journal account, viewership of live television dropped 4 percent last quarter, while video streaming through sites like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video jumped 60 percent.

In what Nielsen describes as the "appification of TV," more than 2.2 million customers have ditched their cable or satellite providers in favor of digital video. The average American now consumes about 11 hours of online video a month—still significantly less than the 141 hours of live television consumed monthly last quarter. Still, those 11 hours don’t include millennials watching from Roku players, Wiis and Xboxes or even on their smartphones at the Laundromat.

Nielsen only recently unveiled plans to start measuring viewership through online subscription services, but according to The Journal the changing tides can also be seen in both broadcast and cable networks’ unusually weak ad sales this year.

Networks may have inadvertently found themselves in a vicious cycle. As their ratings decline and ad sales shrink, online streaming sites are picking up their castoff shows like NBC’s fan-favorite comedy Community, which is moving to Yahoo. And while fans of the network’s similarly acclaimed-but-low-rated comedy Parks and Recreation grumble about the unceremonious way in which the final season will be presented, they have no problem mainlining Netflix Originals like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

Just as Hulu will ask viewers which ads they would prefer to see, consumers increasingly are beginning to favor media outlets that allow them more choice and control in their viewing habits.