8 Revelations About How We Stream TV Now

Dan Clarendon
Netflix

With thousands of TV shows and films available at the touch of a button, how do viewers use streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and all the rest? Do they know exactly what they want to watch, or do they browse? And what happens when they just can’t decide?

Nielsen has the answers. For its Total Audience Report for the first quarter of 2019, the media research firm polled streaming service users to pinpoint their preferences. 

“How are modern consumers navigating the ‘paradox of choice’ and deciding what to watch? Are they embracing subscription and on-demand services, or relying on traditional means like live scheduled programs and DVR?” Nielsen writes in the report. “It might be the latter, as streaming users tend to gravitate back toward their traditional TV preferences when they’re not sure what to watch.”

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Read on for some takeaways from Nielsen’s latest report.

Not many people surf around before streaming TV or movies

66 percent of people know exactly what they want to watch when they fire up their streaming services. But when they don’t know… 

Stranger Things (Netflix)

Millennials spend the most time figuring out what to watch

Viewers aged 18 to 34 spend an average of 9.4 minutes to pick something to watch, viewers aged 35 to 54 spend 8.4 minutes, and viewers 50 and older spend just 5 minutes.

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Streaming service users often drop back to their favorite TV channels

58 percent of streaming service users say they tune their TVs to their favorite channels when they don’t know what they want to watch, as opposed to channel-surfing, checking program descriptions, or browsing their DVRs.

The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu)

Younger viewers are more exploratory

In the same scenario, streaming service users aged 18 to 34 browse menus, watch short clips online, or watch something out of the usual more frequently than the 35-to-49 set.

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1 in 5 streaming service users just give up when they face indecision

And in that same scenario, 21 percent of adults 18 or older just “decide not to watch” and instead do another activity.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)

22 percent of streaming service users don’t have a program in mind

This proportion of respondents said they “don’t know what [they] want to watch at all prior to watching.”

7 in 10 homes now have a streaming video on demand service

Additionally, 72 percent use streaming-capable TV devices.

We’re consuming more media than we were a year ago

Compared to the same quarter of 2018, consumers’ daily media intake rose 21 minutes to a total of 11 hours and 27 minutes per day in the first quarter of 2019.