Most TV Viewers Wait to Stream a Show Rather Than Watch Ads

They also like to binge episodes instead of waiting week-to-week

White man sitting on a sofa holding a television remote control with a pensive look on his face
The results underscore the challenge networks face trying to compete with streaming services. Getty Images

Americans are happy to wait to watch new seasons of their favorite television shows until they arrive on streaming platforms if it means skipping commercials.

A survey from ItsWorthMore, a company that buys back used electronic devices, found that 67.4% of respondents wait to watch television programming until it lands on a streaming service because they want to avoid commercial breaks. The same number of people said they wait so they can binge watch the program instead of waiting for episodes to debut week by week.

Fifty-three percent of respondents said they wait to watch new seasons of their favorite television shows until they are available on streaming platforms, and 42% have begun watching a show on television only to switch to watching it on a streaming service. Respondents who primarily used Hulu were most likely to have started a show on television and then switched to streaming, the survey found.

About one-third of respondents said they watch shows exclusively on streaming services, and one in four viewers preferred programming created by streaming services to television networks. Respondents who primarily used Amazon Prime were the most likely to say they preferred streaming to television due to the production quality of the show, and respondents who primarily used Netflix were the most likely to say they preferred streaming due to the diversity in the actors on the programming.

The survey included responses from 979 people collected using Amazon’s crowdsourcing platform Mechanical Turk. The respondents came from across U.S. and ranged in age from 18 to 77 years old. The average age was 37.6. The survey included more responses from women than men (60% compared to 40%).

According to the report, advertising was not the main way respondents discovered new programming. Overall, 39.2% of respondents said word-of-mouth exposed them to new TV shows, compared to 19.2% who found them through advertisements. Among respondents who primarily used Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix, word-of-mouth was even more important to exposing them to new programming. Interesting descriptions and trailers remained important when respondents were deciding which shows they would watch.

Advertisements for new shows were a more common source of exposure among respondents who primarily watched network television.

The results underscore the challenge media companies face trying to compete with existing streaming services and carve out a space for advertising in the streaming landscape. About a quarter of U.S. households are expected to be cord-cutters by 2022, according to recent figures from eMarketer, and new streaming services including Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max will not run advertising. That’s why some advertisers are instead pursuing product placement deals in programming on streaming services.

Some streaming companies, though, are hedging their bets on ad-supported streaming television. About two-thirds of subscribers to the streaming service Hulu pay a cheaper monthly fee to watch programming with limited commercial breaks, Hulu has said. NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock, which is slated to debut next year, is expected to have both ad-supported and ad-free tiers.

Other services like Viacom’s Pluto TV and Tubi are betting that viewers will be willing to watch advertisements on streaming programming in exchange for watching TV shows and movies for free.

Read the full study from IWM here.

@kelseymsutton Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.