October 14, 2012

Americans' television viewing options continue to grow. First cable, and then satellite services, expanded the amount and variety of content Americans could expect to find in their living rooms. More recently, DVRs, cable- or satellite-provided on-demand programming, along with digitally streamed programming, have allowed Americans to watch what they want, when they want, wherever they like and on whichever device they choose. But how are all of these possibilities really affecting Americans' overall TV viewing habits? And how are they likely to change in the near future?

Over half of Americans (53%) indicate having watched digitally streamed TV programming on any device, and streaming is well on its way to becoming a dominant means of viewership among 18-35 year olds, nearly tying top-ranked live feed TV (as it airs) as the way or among the ways they most often watch TV programming (44% live feed TV, 41% streaming).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,343 adults surveyed online between October 10 and 15, 2012 by Harris Interactive .

Despite U.S. adults – particularly those 35 and under – clearly seeing streaming as a viable viewing option, our TV screens are far from endangered: when asked to select the way or ways in which they most often watch television programs, roughly nine in ten Americans (89%) point to their TV sets, sans streaming.

Though they are watching television programming on a TV screen, whether over the air or through cable or satellite providers, American are far from unanimous on how they do so: while over half (56%) identify a live feed as the way, or one of the ways, they most often watch TV programs, roughly three in ten each specify watching recorded (32%) or cable- or satellite-provided on-demand (29%) programming.

As for streaming – while it may not be overtaking traditional TV viewership methods today, it is by no means an afterthought: a combined three in ten Americans (30%) have the ability to watch streamed programming on their TV sets (19% via set top boxes or game systems, 17% via Internet-compatible TV sets), and two in ten (20%) list streaming – on any device – as among the ways they most often watch TV programs.

Additionally, there is cause to expect growth in the streaming of TV content: two in ten Americans indicate that they are watching more online/streaming TV content now than a year ago (20%) and that that they expect to be watching more a year from now (19%). And among those not watching more when compared to a year ago, roughly six in ten (59%) indicate that there are factors which could encourage them to watch more online/streaming TV programming; top factors include improved free streaming options (31%), access to programming they currently cannot (or don't think they can) get via streaming (20%), not having to watch on a computer screen (19%), access to a sufficiently fast connection (17%) and ease of access (17%).

Streaming proving a fit for households with children

Americans living in households with children appear to be an especially strong market for TV streaming. Those with children in their households are more likely than those without to:

- own many of the streaming compatible devices asked about:

Smartphone (62% among those with children in their households vs. 40% among those without), TV with Internet access (either natively or via a box or game system; 38% with vs. 27% without), Tablet (31% with vs. 21% without);

- have ever watched streamed TV programs (60% with vs. 49% without);

- report watching more (24% with vs. 18% without) or the same amount (44% with vs. 36% without) of online or streaming TV content than a year ago; and,

- anticipate watching more (27% with vs. 15% without) online/streaming TV content a year from now.

Vying for attention

Regardless of how Americans watch TV programs, few are only watching: roughly eight in ten (81%) report doing other things while watching TV. More specifically, nearly two-thirds (65%) engage in online activities; over one-third (37%) read a book, magazine or newspaper, with an additional 11% reading a book on an electronic reading device; roughly one-third (35%) text and one-fourth (25%) do other things.

TV advertising has grown increasingly complex in recent years; gone are the days of simply choosing which programs to support and in which markets. Now advertisers must also consider how viewers will be watching, on what device, and – particularly for time-sensitive advertising – when. "This adds challenges to digital media planners and agencies needing to capture and engage audiences," explains Harris Interactive Media Practice VP Rhona Wulf. With the 35-and-under age group showing particularly strong streaming and multi-screening, along with those in households with children, "those looking to speak to these markets are under particular pressure to establish multi-platform approaches."

On the content end of the business, Wulf explains that "the providers who can most effectively speak to the impediments holding up streaming viewership (ease of use, lack of desired programming, etc.) will have a significant advantage in the emerging battle for streaming dominance."

"Furthermore," continues Wulf, "with early pilot releases via streaming technology now becoming a major part of some new shows' rollouts, buzz can build for the right programs long before they ever hit the more traditional airwaves. But this approach only makes sense for programs targeting the audiences most likely to take advantage of the streaming format."

Still another industry likely to be impacted by growth in TV content streaming is that of Internet service and mobile data providers, who are likely to see continued demand for more and more bandwidth.

"In short," summarizes Wulf, "What we're seeing in streaming TV viewership is likely to have an impact not just industry-wide, but industries-wide."

To view charts CLICK above on ‘More Images’.

For more information at http://www.harrisinteractive.com

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