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Streaming usage increases 21% in a year to now account for nearly one-third of total TV time

3 minute read | July 2022

There’s more than enough discussion across the media industry about the massive growth of streaming, but the ongoing fanfare fails to objectively quantify what is truly happening and the full impact that over-the-top content is having on total TV usage. To remedy that, Nielsen publishes The Gauge, its monthly snapshot of total TV and streaming usage, which equalizes measurement of the time audiences spend with their TV sets. After doing this for one year, the effect of streaming consumption is very clear, especially when we consider that the amount of time spent watching TV hasn’t changed.

Compared with mid-2020, when connected TV usage skyrocketed as people stayed home amid COVID-driven shelter-in-place restrictions, total TV usage has returned to seasonal norms, but streaming has taken a much bigger seat at the table. Between May 2021 and May 2022, streaming usage increased more than 21%. That growth allowed streaming to capture an additional 5.6 share points: streaming accounted for nearly 32% of total TV time in May 2022, up from 26% one year ago.

That rise in time spent streaming comes at the expense of other options, largely cable. On a year-over-year basis, cable viewing dipped 7.1%, reducing the channel’s share of TV time by 2.8 share points in May 2022 vs. one year ago. Comparatively, broadcast viewing has remained relatively stable, losing just a negligible 0.8 share point decline in TV time over the past year due to a 3.3% reduction in viewing.

Beneath the surface of aggregate share change by channel, we can see the impact of streaming in greater detail. We can also see that streaming platforms have taken advantage of the seasonal lull in summertime viewing by introducing new titles when there is less competition for audience attention. For example, the release of season 4 of Stranger Things racked up more than 5 billion viewing minutes during its opening weekend in the last week of May.

In total, each of the six streaming platforms that are broken out in The Gauge by name (e.g., Netflix, Hulu, Disney+) grew its usage by double-digits between May 2021 and May 2022.

Other takeaways:

  • Disney+ grew its usage by 39%, helping the platform gain its share of total TV time by 0.5 share points over the year.
  • YouTube, which includes YouTube TV, has seen the greatest increase in share, growing  by a full point to take second place overall.
  • Netflix saw a 12.7% increase in volume, fueling a 0.8% jump in share to 6.8% of total TV time. Netflix also retains its title for the most-used streaming service. 
  • Amazon’s 20.8% increase in usage helped it gain half a share point, pushing it to 2.6% of total TV time.

In addition, the “other streaming” category, which includes the platforms that have not yet reached the 1% of share threshold to be broken out individually, has grown its share from 8% to 10.5% when we include HBO Max for consistency, and is up 32.4% on an impressions basis over the past year. Much of the growth in this category stems from the proliferation of new services that have come online over the past two years, introducing vast choice that some estimate to exceed 200 services in the U.S. alone. Other big gainers in the “other streaming” category include TubiTV (75% increase in usage) and Peacock (71% increase in usage).

Amid the array of media choice, the past year serves as further evidence that streaming is the future of TV, and audience-first mindsets will be best positioned to engage viewers as connected TV usage grows toward ubiquity. Given the shifts we’ve seen over the past year, it seems likely that this summer may be remembered in the media industry as the summer of streaming—even more so than the pandemic lockdown period.

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