US Linear TV viewership share drops below 50% for the first time

The latest figures from TV audience tracking firm Nielsen illustrate the move among US viewers from traditional TV to streaming video consumption.

While the direction of travel is no great surprise, this inflection point in the world’s most lucrative and influential TV market is worthy of note. As you can see from the Nielsen chart below in July of this year the combined share of daily broadcast and cable TV viewership in the US was 49.6%. Meanwhile the use of SVoD (subscription video on demand) services such as Netflix, via a TV, reached a record high of 38.7%.

In July of last year the share accounted for by linear TV was 56%, while SVoD was 31.5%. Others, which accounts for TV screen use by gaming consoles, seems to be pretty stable. Of the seven points of market share claimed by SVoD, most came from cable. Within SVoD, the biggest winner has been YouTube, accounting for three of those gained points, with the rest mainly accounted for by the growing long tail. For some reason Apple TV+ was not mentioned among that group, despite it apparently having a similar share to Paramount.

While this is US data, many other countries tend to follow US trends, so its reasonable to extrapolate them globally. This is obviously bad news for the traditional TV industry, especially since the data doesn’t include streaming video consumption over mobile devices, which is presumably nearly all SVoD. The growth of YouTube suggests a strong demographic element, with younger viewers driving the move away from linear TV, and it will be interesting to see how far that paradigm can continue to decline.


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