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New Nielsen Measurement Shows Streaming Usage Outrunning Broadcast TV In May

A new monthly Nielsen measurement called The Gauge shows just how much the pandemic has catalyzed streaming among a broad ranger of consumers with May usage across all television homes climbing to 26% of time spent on TV — outpacing broadcast, with an audience share of 25%.

The streaming video data included SVOD and AVOD. Streaming and broadcast now account for half of television time. Cable accounted for 39%, and “other” viewing for 9%.

“The past year has categorically shifted the television viewing landscape. Even as people begin to dive back into their pre-pandemic activities, based on the changes many made to enable streaming coupled with the variety of newly introduced services, we expect people to keep sampling and exploring their options. Maybe just as importantly, as production ramps back up, new content will enter the space, driving additional traction,” says Brian Fuhrer, SVP, Product Strategy at Nielsen.

Among the top streamers, Netflix tied with YouTube/YouTube TV at 6%; Hulu came in at 3%; Amazon Prime Video at 2%; and Disney at 1%.

Nielsen has been under scrutiny for many years for being too encumbered by its traditional methodology to fully reflect the streaming era. Marketers have complained of not having visibility into streaming platforms taking share from linear TV. Networks at the same time have insisted that Nielsen has undercounted their viewership.

Tensions have reached a boil this year, with the Video Advertising Bureau — a trade group representing traditional media companies — leveling criticism of Nielsen for sidelining its field researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Nielsen said it made the moves due to safety considerations and has defended its numbers.

One key driver of the new Nielsen measurement effort is the unprecedented push into direct-to-consumer streaming by Disney, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal and other companies over the past year and a half. Some new services, like NBCU’s Peacock, are heavily ad-dependent and therefore rely on Nielsen. Peacock ad rates for certain programming exceed that of the NBC network.

While ad dollars are steadily shifting to streaming, there is still more than $60 billion in annual spending on linear TV ads. The just-completed upfront sales cycle has been robust for media companies, in part because of surging digital demand but also because of scarcity and reach for linear, the companies have said.

Nielsen said The Gauge is a monthly interval showing the Total Usage of Television (TUT) for Broadcast, Streaming, Cable and Other with a Streaming channel drill down.

The primary components of All other TV are AOT (ALL Other Tuning), VOD, Streaming through a cable set top box, Gaming, and other device (DVD Playback) use. Other streaming is any high bandwidth (video) streaming to the television not listed.

Streaming via Cable Set Top Boxes does not credit to the respective streaming distributors, but instead is included in the “All Other” group.

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