Streaming Services Are Here to Grow—More People Would Keep Watching or Add on Another

Nielsen emphasizes content is king, but so are other factors

Nearly half of U.S. consumers between 18 and 34 were subscribed to three or more streaming services.
Nearly half of U.S. consumers between 18 and 34 were subscribed to three or more streaming services. Getty Images
Headshot of Kelsey Sutton

Key insights:

Here’s some good news for the increasingly competitive streaming video space: Consumers’ appetites for streaming services is getting bigger. According to a new survey into U.S. consumer sentiment, 93% say they plan on signing up for additional services or at least keeping the number of streaming services they already have.

Nielsen released the survey results Tuesday as part of its February Total Audience Report dedicated to streaming, highlighting the continued room to grow for the streaming industry as well as the risks for services who are unable to keep customers satisfied.

While nearly 40% of survey respondents said they’d add new services at an incremental cost, 27% said they’d drop a current service to switch to another service. Meanwhile, 13% say they’d borrow a streaming service log-in from someone they knew to access additional paid services.

“There’s this attitude of, if you build it, they will come—and that’s what we’re seeing here,” said Peter Katsingris, svp, audience insights, Nielsen. “There’s definitely still room for this market to grow.”

More than 90% of U.S. consumers with OTT capabilities in their home are subscribed to at least one streaming service, Nielsen found, with about 30% signed up for two and another 30% subscribed to three or more. That number went up for younger people: nearly half of consumers between 18 and 34 were subscribed to three or more services.

Nielsen

On average, users spent about one-fifth of their TV time on streaming. Netflix took about a third of that time, and YouTube ate up another 21%. Users spent an average of 12% of their streaming time on Hulu, and 8% on Amazon Prime Video. Nielsen did not break out other competitors individually (although it likely will in future reports) and found that 28% of video streaming time went to other services.

Unsurprisingly, content was extremely important among consumers. Seventy nine percent of respondents told Nielsen the variety and availability of content was extremely or very important when considering video streaming services, and nearly half said expanding the available content was a reason for subscribing to additional paid video streaming services.

Meanwhile, 37% said they subscribed to additional paid video services to watch particular programs they had heard about, and 35% said they signed up for additional services to access original content.

“What we are seeing here is that the content is really what’s driving the decisions,” said Katsingris, who oversaw the creation of the report. “Content is huge. Content is king.”

Price also remains a major consideration for consumers when evaluating available services, Nielsen found. Eighty-four percent of survey respondents said cost was extremely or very important to their decisions around streaming service subscriptions, and 64% of survey respondents said the overall cost of media services was a factor in limiting the number of paid video services subscribed to.

Nielsen

The survey results, collected online in mid-November from a representative sample of 1,000 people, underscores something streaming executives have long emphasized, which is that the streaming wars are not a zero-sum game. The consumer interest in original content helps contextualize why so many new services are investing billions in original programming, which they hope will allow their services to stand out in a crowded market. Through last December, U.S. consumers had access to 646,152 unique program titles to choose from across linear and streaming services in 2019, according to Nielsen.

As more services come onto the market, consumer sensitivity to price presents a balancing act for new and existing services. Disney’s new service, Disney+, was able to balloon to 28.6 million subscribers in three months’ time, which CEO Bob Iger partially attributed to its price point of $6.99 a month or less with various bundles and promotions.

Other media companies are relying on advertising dollars to keep service costs low for customers. Hulu and CBS All Access already offer cheaper ad-supported tiers to their service, and WarnerMedia’s upcoming service HBO Max will follow the same playbook. NBCUniversal will make the lowest tier of its upcoming streaming service Peacock free if consumers are willing to sit through advertisements.

It’s worth noting here that avoiding ads is a selling point for paid video streaming services. Nearly a third of Nielsen survey respondents saying that a driver for subscribing to additional paid video streaming services is to access content with limited or no commercials.

And while there’s plenty of room to grow in streaming, it still makes up only a fraction of the average consumers’ time spent watching live television, which averaged three hours and 27 minutes per day in the third quarter of 2019 among adults 18+. Nielsen’s report found that represents a slight decline from the average three hours and 44 minutes spent on live TV a year prior.

You can find the full Nielsen Total Audience Report here.


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