Published July 14th, 2017
Netflix is continuing to dominate streaming services in the U.S., not only in terms of penetration in cord cutters’ homes, as reported in April, but also in time spent watching. According to data from comScore, cord cutters are watching more Netflix each month than YouTube, Hulu and Amazon Video combined. But Hulu users are more engaged with the service on a daily basis, the study indicates.
The data from comScore was cited by MarketingCharts in its own report released this morning, and follows on earlier findings that the user base for subscription video services has now topped the cable TV audience, indicating a shift in how people in the U.S. are today watching television.
Netflix in April accounted for 40 percent of over-the-top viewing hours, compared with 18 percent for YouTube, 14 percent for Hulu, and 7 percent for Amazon Video. It also has the most monthly viewing days per household at 12.3 days.
But when you look at viewing behavior on a day-by-day basis, Hulu is far ahead of the pack.
On average, U.S. cord cutters are watching 2.9 hours of Hulu per day, which is ahead of Netflix (2.2 hours), YouTube (2.1 hours), and Amazon Video (2 hours).
Though MarketingCharts’ report didn’t delve deeply into why that’s the case, the primary reason is simply due to the fact that Netflix has higher penetration in the U.S.
However, the new figures may point to key differences in how consumers watch the different streaming services, too.
Netflix, for example, likely encourages more binge watching sessions, because of how it drops entire seasons of shows at once – like the recent release of Season 5 of “Orange is the New Black,” where a single event – a prison riot – is told across 13 episodes. The entire season feels like one, long story, not a dozen or so separate ones.
Meanwhile, Hulu’s partnerships enable streaming access to network and cable TV programming, which in turn has people tuning into its service on a more regular basis to see if new episodes of their favorite shows are available.
Or, in other words, Hulu is taking the place of traditional TV in the cord-cutting era, while Netflix has become associated with an entirely different style of viewing.
In fact, Netflix has been credited with the invention of this new storytelling “art form” – something that sits in between being a TV show but isn’t quite a film, either. Storytellers have adapted their content to cater to binge watchers, too, by telling these longer stories, and sometimes even crafting entire first seasons that function as the “pilot,” instead of just the first episode.
Plus, these TV stories don’t have to rely as much on things like manipulative cliff-hangers – a holdover from the network TV era where shows needed a hook to pull people back next week. Now, storytellers can instead count more on Netflix’s auto-play feature, which loads up the next episode immediately after the current one ends.
On Netflix, it takes more effort to stop watching than to keep bingeing.
The new data doesn’t definitively prove that these factors have contributed to why Netflix is capturing more viewing hours, but they likely play a role.
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More than half of all Americans, or 56 percent, have the ability to watch internet video on their TVs — but they’re still watching regular TV most of the time.
Since 2015, there has been a 20 percentage-point increase in the share of adults who can get internet video on their TV, either through the TV itself or by using a device like a Chromecast, according to a new report from ad trade agency Interactive Advertising Bureau.
But a large portion of the time (39 percent), people are using these TVs to watch old-fashioned live TV. As for internet video, they’re streaming Netflix or YouTube or Hulu about 24 percent of the time.
Fortunately for subscription streaming services like Amazon and Netflix that offer TV-on-the-internet packages, that share is going up.
People who do use their TVs to watch Netflix or Hulu are doing so more often. About half (46 percent) of people with streaming-enabled TVs watch streaming video daily, up from 32 percent in 2015.
What are they streaming? Seventy-nine percent watch TV shows (either currently airing, or shows that have aired in the past), whereas a close 70 percent watch subscription originals like Netflix’s “Stranger Things” or Hulu’s “Handmaid’s Tale.”