Half of consumers say streaming is their first stop for TV

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Netflix is closing in on pay TV as consumers' first source for TV. (Getty/FS-Stock)

Half of all consumers say that streaming services are the first place they turn when it’s time to watch TV, according to Hub Entertainment Research.

The firm’s newest annual “Decoding the Default” study – which in August surveyed 1,600 U.S. consumers with broadband, age 16-74, who watch at least one hour of TV per week – found that 50% of consumers (up from 47% last year) say online services are the first TV source they turn on. That includes streaming on-demand services like Netflix, free services like Pluto TV, and virtual MVPDs like YouTube TV.

The same research found that 42% say their first choice is viewing from a traditional TV set-top box (live viewing, DVR, or VOD), down from 47% last year. Hub noted that the remaining percentages each year default to viewing over-the-air, from an antenna.

RELATED: People are watching TV from 4.8 different sources, says Hub

“For those who default to an online source, nearly half (23% of the 50%) say that online source is Netflix. In fact, Netflix, by itself, is now nearly as likely to be consumers’ TV home base as all live TV channels accessed through pay TV combined,” wrote Hub. The firm said that in 2016, live TV from a pay TV service was three times as likely as Netflix to be viewers’ TV default, but today, Netflix trails live viewing by seven percentage points.

(Hub Entertainment Research)

Hub’s research seems to confirm that younger viewers are increasingly losing interest in pay TV. The firm said that fewer than one in five young consumers default to live TV, down seven points from last year.

“But more ominously, even among live TV’s strongest adherents—those age 55 or older—the proportion defaulting to live has dropped significantly since just last year,” Hub wrote.

Just 14% of 18-34 year olds turn to live TV before any other source, down 21% in 2019, and the report saw an equal seven-point drop among 55+ year olds; fewer than half now say live TV is their first stop.

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