The First Choice For Viewing? It’s Not Live Television


A research firm created “to focus specifically on the intersection of technology and entertainment” has just released the latest findings from an annual study tracking the TV sources consumers consider their “go-to” viewing platform.

The results, according to Hub Entertainment Research?

Multiplatform use is continuing to rise, and there’s a steady move away from live TV as a default source.

RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: Gee, consider the source. Of course this study is going to paint live TV in poor light. FULL TEXT AVAILABLE BELOW, FOR MEMBERS ONLY.

The Hub study, Decoding the Default, finds that consumers are using more sources for TV watching than ever before.

In fact, the average consumer has 4.5 different sources to choose from when they’re ready to watch TV, including linear TV, DVR, video on demand (VOD), and “over the top” (OTT) services such as Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu. That number is up from 3.7 in 2014.

Among adult viewers aged 18-34, the number of platforms is even higher, at 5.1 different sources. As just one example, 50% adults 18-34 surveyed subscribe to two or more of the “big three” SVODs: Netflix, Hulu or Amazon.

With multiple sources of video entertainment at their disposal, just 39% of viewers surveyed said that live, linear TV from a traditional pay TV service is what they turn on first. That’s down 8 points from Hub’s 2017 study, when 47% called live TV their viewing default.

On the contrary, consumers are now more likely to turn first to an on-demand, time-shifted source of TV, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, a DVR, or pay TV video on demand (48% combined).

Is it just the under-40 audience that is no longer going to live TV as a first destination for content? According to the Hub study, live TV is down in “core demos.”

But, even viewers 55+ show are shifting away from live TV as a first destination. As Hub notes, some 56% of viewers 55 and older still default to watching live television. But, this is down from 66% one year ago.

“We’ve been watching live TV drop steadily as a default source since we first conducted this study in 2013,” said Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study. “But this is the first year where we’ve seen a sharp drop among older consumers too, which has huge implications for the monetization of linear TV in general. As online, on-demand platforms continue to become mainstream, live viewing has become the exception rather than the rule.”

That’s not to say live TV isn’t important.

“There are categories where live TV still fills a vital role – especially news and sports, as well as ‘channel surfing’ without anything specific in mind,” said Jon Giegengack, principal at Hub and one of the authors of the study. “But the skyrocketing variety of on-demand content means that occasions where consumers must follow a linear schedule to see content they care about are growing fewer and farther between.”

RBR+TVBR OBSERVATION: Gee, consider the source. Of course this study is going to paint live TV in poor light. As Hub notes, Decoding the Default  is based on the responses of 1,933 US consumers with broadband who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week. The data was collected in June 2018. The key factor here is “broadband” — Hub surveyed consumers who have broadband about TV viewing. That’s only a segment of total TV viewers. There are some, believe it or not, that don’t have broadband in the home and perhaps consume TV via a good ol’ digital antenna. Plus, what is “live TV” to the viewer — Channel 10 or HGTV? When we look at “studies,” we expect them to be straightforward. But, something smells fishy here. Who does Hub work with? The “disruptors.”  It has technology as its backbone, so of course it’s going to make OTT sources look rosy. That said, there is some legitimacy to what the report’s findings show: If you have broadband in the home, you’re not likely to go to live TV as a first destination anymore. However, is that representative of the total population of TV viewers? No. Hub has some good insights, but who are its clients? We suspect they’re more interested in linking advertisers to Amazon and Netflix than they are getting a bigger digital imprint for Gray Television or Sinclair Broadcast Group. This study offers good intelligence for the broadcast media company. It is a snapshot of a significant, but not whole, population of TV viewers.