Streaming Eclipses Cable and Satellite TV Viewing; Consumers Pay More Attention to TV Programs and Ads When Streaming

TransUnion and Harris Poll survey finds more active viewing, more relevant ads and shorter ad breaks may boost consumers’ commercial attention

According to a new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of TransUnion, more consumers are streaming now than watching cable and satellite TV. Between mid-November and mid-December 2021, 70% of Americans who watched TV during that time streamed, including 82% of 18-54 year-olds.

The survey of over 1,800 TV viewers found they watch streaming more actively compared to legacy cable/satellite. Further, they prefer streaming for high-engagement viewing occasions, such as watching their favorite show or when they want to ‘lose themselves’ in a program. The survey also found streaming ads resonate more with consumers – especially the younger audiences advertisers covet – than ads viewed on cable or satellite TV.

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“It’s clear that streaming television generates more interest among viewers across content and ads, making free, ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels critical to advertisers. Streaming viewing time will soon eclipse traditional TV, and with tens of millions of streaming-only households already, advertisers need the right tools to identify and reach audiences through streaming channels,” said Matt Spiegel, EVP of Media and Entertainment Vertical, TransUnion.

Streaming More Engaging Than TV Tied to the Cord
According to the study, streaming and cable/satellite viewers prefer streaming for entertainment, relaxation and content discovery, while linear TV is more likely to be used to watch news or when the television is on in the background.

Viewer Preferences – Streaming v. Cable/Satellite Television

Reason to Watch Streaming Cable/Satellite
Watch favorite programs 52% 25%
Relax/Unwind 51% 21%
To escape and lose myself in a program 52% 20%
Really want to pay attention to program 49% 22%
When I am looking for something new to watch (discovery) 58% 17%
Watch the news 33% 50%

Commercials on Streaming TV Garner More Consumer Attention
Overall, ads viewed on streaming platforms engage consumers more than ads viewed on cable and satellite, especially among 18-54 year-olds:

  • Almost twice as many streaming and cable/satellite viewers ages 18-54 claim to pay more attention to commercials on streaming (43%) versus cable/satellite (23%).
  • 59% say streaming TV commercials are more relevant to them than commercials on cable/satellite TV.
  • 47% say streaming has more engaging/interactive commercials compared to only 28% who say the same about cable/satellite.
  • 69% agree that streaming tends to have shorter ad breaks compared to cable/satellite TV, which likely also contributes to increased ad attention.

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Streaming Remains a Fragmented Advertising Market
“For advertisers, streaming still has its challenges. Consumers stream across multiple devices and applications, many of which own a piece of the streaming ad inventory pool. The different pieces use varying technologies and have unique ways of identifying consumers. That can make it difficult for advertisers to execute audience-targeted campaigns across the streaming ecosystem with the precision and scale they desire,” said David Wiesenfeld, Lead Strategist, Media and Entertainment Vertical, TransUnion.

The survey found 45% of TV viewers have three or more streaming-capable TVs at home, nearly two in five (38%) have more than one brand1* of smart TV in their home, and over half of streaming viewers (55%) watched more than five streaming channels2* in the past month.

“Consumers are telling us how they want to watch TV, and that is increasingly on streaming services. It’s now up to our industry to deliver the seamless, engaging TV ad experiences streaming enables. It starts with being able to recognize consumers across platforms and devices. That will require advertisers, media companies and ad tech platforms to evolve toward an identity infrastructure for TV that serves the needs of all constituents,” Wiesenfeld concluded.

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