- Nearly four years deep into the streaming wars and emerging from post-lockdown subscription hangover, the state of streaming TV is best described as “in flux.”
- US consumer streaming behavior is shifting rapidly and is doing so somewhat differently at the far ends of the demographic spectrum.
- Life experience — how we were raised to watch TV — still seems to influence how we consume TV now.
READ MORE: Streaming in Flux (TV Rev)
Streaming is now a vital part of nearly all Americans’ content diets. Yet, what viewers choose to watch, and where, differs greatly based on age.
According to the latest report from Publishers Clearing House Consumer Insights and analyst Evan Shapiro looks at recent American viewing habits. Based on responses from 16,650 consumers gathered in February, the report finds a substantial bifurcation of TV consumption along generational lines. Life experience — how we were raised to watch TV — still seems to influence how we consume TV now.
“For those under 45, streaming culture — bingeing, cancelling after a binge, streaming content for free — are TV norms,” Shapiro says. “Those over 45 years of age maintain many of the habits they had when choice and viewer control were not so abundant.”
Digging deeper: 40% of viewers under 45 say bingeing is their preferred way to watch series. Consumers older than 45 are most likely to choose their viewing method based on the show.
These habits seem to correlate to the number of services each group has: the younger a subscriber, the more services they subscribe to.
Forty-three per cent of Americans under 45 have three or more streaming TV subscriptions, while more Americans over 45 have zero premium paid streaming services (32%) than have three (31%).
Sixty-eight percent of consumers over 45 and 78% of those under 45 have one or more paid streaming services, leading Shapiro to conclude, “Paying for streaming TV is now normal entertainment behavior at all ends of the demographic spectrum.”
However, so is churning.
Forty percent of younger streamers say they occasionally or regularly sign up for a service for a specific show or movie, watch that content, and cancel before the next billing cycle. More than a quarter of older Americans also say they also participate in serial churning.
Movies remain the content genre subscribers value most. Together with premium episodic shows, these two content genres determine a large portion of subscription decisions.
That’s not to say that kids programming and live sports aren’t important, with around 15% of subscribers to each genre likely to be more loyal to their service provider.
According to this survey, Disney tops the chart of domestic streaming popularity, largely helped by Hulu, beating both Netflix and YouTube to take the crown.
Warner Brothers Discovery is in the elite tier, right on Amazon’s heels, and the combined Paramount+/Pluto TV is another streaming giant.
When it comes to free streaming services, this survey suggests that Tubi, Roku Channel and Pluto TV “appear to be reaching critical mass among younger viewers,” yet all are more popular than notable paid services like AppleTV+, ESPN+ and Discovery+.
Free streaming is now the top TV choice with consumers under 45, and second only to cable TV among viewers over 45. It is YouTube which is far and away the leading free video platform “quickly becoming the go-to channel on CTV for all ages.”
Shapiro writes, “What this data does makes clear is that subscribers are getting pickier, and nimbler in their leaps from one service to another. Bingeing has generated a growing wave serial churn, and the changing economics of entertainment have given consumers a vast content smorgasbord, which they are actively sampling.
“It is also clear that older audiences and younger see their content consumption and platform choices quite differently — at least for now. To keep customers from serial churning, platforms and publishers should respond with pricing and packaging flexible enough to serve all ages.”