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Streaming accounts for nearly one-fifth of total US TV watching, according to Nielsen

Anthony Ha

Streaming eats up a big chunk of viewers' time, though it's still outweighed by traditional linear TV.

That's according to the latest Total Audience Report from Nielsen — its first Total Audience Report to use smart TV data from Gracenote, and one that's particularly focused on "the flash point of the 'streaming wars'" (as Senior Vice President of Audience Insights Peter Katsingris puts it in his introduction).

The firm reports that among U.S. homes that are capable of over-the-top streaming, 19 percent of their TV time was spent on streaming during fourth quarter of 2019. Within that streaming time, Netflix accounted for 31 percent, compared to 21 percent for YouTube, 12 percent for Hulu, 8 percent for Amazon and 28 percent for other services.

The Gracenote data also allows Nielsen to analyze the full universe of content available to U.S. viewers — yes, there's a lot of content out there. The firm concludes that through December 2019, viewers had access 646,152 unique program titles, up 10 percent from 2018. And among those titles, 9 percent were available exclusively on subscription video on demand services like Netflix.

Nielsen Total Audience Report

The report also looks at the streaming audio world, finding that streaming audio on smartphones reached 64 percent of U.S. adults in Q3 2018 (compared to 45 percent the year before), while streaming audio on tablets reached 25 percent (up from 13 percent). In contrast, radio and satellite were steady at 92 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

The report also includes the results of a consumer survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by Nielsen last fall, which found that 91 percent of all respondents (and 96 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34) currently subscribe to a paid streaming video service, with 30 percent of respondents (and 47 percent of 18-to-34 year olds) saying that they subscribe to three or more.

Meanwhile, on the audio side, 63 percent of respondents said they pay for at least one streaming subscription, while 53 percent paid for two.

Added together, Nielsen said U.S. consumers now spend "nearly 12 hours [per day] across TV, TV-connected devices, radio, computers, smartphones and tablets." The report continues:

That’s 1 hour and 24 minutes of additional media exposure across all platforms from third-quarter 2018, which was driven by smartphone usage. That is a great amount of the waking day for consumer connectivity, so this amount of time is especially eye-opening. Marketers and content creators have literally every waking hour of a consumers’ day to put forth their best messages.

The streaming wars to come