The drivers in the study were defined as a steady stream of new viewing platforms, the rapid growth in exclusive streaming content, and the continuing decline in MVPD subscriptions. Such dynamics in 2020 have, said Hub, seen the gap widening between online sources and traditional pay-TV as the go-to platform for new shows.
The Conquering Content report – conducted in October 2020 among 1,604 US consumers aged 16-74 with broadband, who watched at least an hour of TV per week – explored how both the rapid expansion of TV platforms and the Covid-prompted new normal have shifted the way viewers learn about, and decide to watch, new TV content.
A key dynamic flagged in the research was that traditional pay-TV and online have moved in opposite directions as the source for newly discovered favourite shows. In fact, today, 68% of viewers watch their new favourite shows online, compared with 26% traditional pay-TV source.
Not surprisingly, Netflix was found to continue to be the top individual viewing source for new shows, with 38% watching their recently discovered favourite programme on the platform. That was 18 points higher than the percentage who watch a new favourite show live from an MVPD source.
The research also identified what was described as a “dramatic” difference in how viewers discover shows they watch online compared with those they watch with pay-TV. Discovery of shows on pay-TV is driven by advertising, while favourites watched online spread organically from person to person. When asked how they first found out about their favourite online show, the largest percentage (33%) said they heard through word-of-mouth. For favourites watched through a pay-TV platform, the top discovery source (30%) was advertising.
The study also showed that the availability of original shows was a strong driver of subscription to a TV service, but many viewers did not have a good sense for how much original content certain streaming services offer. For a range of streaming services, Hub asked viewers if the service offered more, less, or about the same number of original shows as other platforms. Other than Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Disney+, half or more could not venture a guess but among those who did have an opinion, Netflix was far and away perceived as the original content leader, with two-thirds of viewers believing that Netflix produces more originals than other platforms.
A common phenomenon revealed in the new survey was signing up for a streaming service to watch just one show. A third of viewers said that they have signed up for a streaming service to watch a single, exclusive show, most likely from Netflix, followed by Hulu and Disney+. Almost three-quarters of these single-show subscribers (74%) decided to keep their subscription after the show had ended.
“Online sources are now the clear go-to for consumers’ favourite shows. And what’s especially astounding is that Netflix, by itself, is far more likely to be the viewing home for new favourites than all linear networks combined,” said Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the Conquering Content report. “As new streamers proliferate and as word-of-mouth and social continue to strongly influence the discovery of online content, it’s becoming rarer and rarer for viewers to turn on their pay-TV set-top box when they’re settling in to watch the shows they’re most eager to watch.”