A spate of stunning statistics about streaming video adoption has confirmed what everyone knew and it is fueling discussions into how to measure viewership as advertisers re-evaluate marketing investments.
The data reports provide slightly different perspectives about the drift toward streaming and over-the-top viewing, further complicating advertisers’ decision-making.
Nielsen’s autumn assessment of TV usage showed that streaming viewership and broadcasting are tied: 28% of total TV time spent on streaming versus 28% for conventional broadcasting and that means that streaming providers are attracting similar levels as the 500 billion minutes that conventional linear TV beams to homes.
Separately, Hub Entertainment Research found that 53% of U.S. consumers with broadband watch free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) platforms like Pluto TV, Roku Channel, Tubi, IMDB TV, and the free version of Peacock. Hub noted its fall survey marked the first time that most viewers tuned to FAST channels — up by 11 percentage points from 2020.
A Digital Entertainment Group (DEG) study determined that U.S. consumers spent $6.38 billion on subscription streaming in the third quarter of 2021, up 16.9% from the third quarter of 2020. DEG said streaming video on demand (SVOD) spending represented almost all of the home entertainment growth. Newcomers such as Discovery+ and Paramount+ along with providers like HBO Max and Apple TV Plus are fueling the growth in streaming usage and spending. eMarketer predicted that advertising on Connected TV (CTV) would reach $14.44 billion in 2021, up 59.9% from 2020, hit $29.5 billion by 2024 and “soar past $30 billion in 2025.” At that point CTV advertising will represent 7.6% of total media spending, compared to 4.6% in 2021.
Broadcasters presented their own statistics to bolster the viability of linear programming and advertising. CBS converted familiar broadcast rating metrics into streaming measurement of “total viewing time” (the Nielsen format for streaming programming). Using that comparison, CBS said during the seven weeks of the current TV season, viewers spent 166.74 billion minutes with the network. The Hollywood Reporter (THR) found that during the same period, NBC attracted 130.84 billion minutes, Fox had 108.63 billion minutes and ABC which has no NFL telecasts, drew 98.54 billion minutes of viewing time. (Figures do not represent local news or syndicated programs on local affiliates.)
Acknowledging a direct comparison to streaming platforms is futile, THR estimated “it’s likely that the full streaming universe is on a par with or slightly ahead of the 500 billion-plus minutes” of broadcast TV. It cited during a one-month period, the top 10 shows on five major streaming platforms generated 49.53 billion minutes of viewing time, which can be extrapolated to 104 billion minutes during CBS’s seven-week period. THR emphasized those popular shows only represent a fraction of the total programming viewed on all streaming services.
This dueling data is being sifted as media companies revamp plans to expand their streaming strategies. The pending merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia is likely to lead to a platform that combines the vast content from both companies. Jean-Briac Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery Streaming and International, said the merger may come in two phases.
AMC’s Interim CEO Matt Blank explained why the cable network is “building a streaming business that is sustainable.” The company has nearly nine million streaming subscribers for its portfolio that includes AMC+, Acorn TV, Shudder, Sundance Now and ALLBLK. Blank predicted the company’s streaming services would hit 25 million viewers by 2025, calling it “absolutely transformational.” Vevo, the music network, is crossing media lines with its launch of ten Vevo channels on Local Now, as part of Vevo’s strategy to deliver content through CTVs in both on-demand and linear-programmed environments.
With all these streaming tallies and strategies, we can count on constant changes.
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