For the first time, more people watched streaming TV than cable

For the first time, more people watched streaming TV than cable

Nielsen's July 2022 television consumption breakdown.
Enlarge / Nielsen’s breakdown of television consumption in July 2022.

A new report from market research firm Nielsen says that for the first time, TV viewers have been watching more on streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ than cable TV, making streaming the most popular way to consume content.

The shift has been predicted by analysts and commentators for years, but it has only now materialized. Streaming had previously overtaken terrestrial TV, but cable was still beating it until July.

In July, streaming accounted for 34.8 percent of TV viewership. Cable television, which has meanwhile been dethroned, came second, coming in just behind with 34.4 percent. The relatively distant third was broadcast with 21.6 percent.

Streaming increased 22.6 percent compared to July 2021, and viewers streamed an average of 190.9 billion minutes per week. Nielsen points out that this is significantly more than a previously released streaming figure: 169.9 billion minutes in April 2020, one of the busiest months of the pandemic.

All in all, the postponement could be attributed to both a lack of new content — particularly sports programming — on cable TV in July and growth in streaming. Streaming services have been pumping out new content at an all-time high, while cable channels have slowed for the summer. There’s also a lot more streaming content than there used to be, thanks to the launch of new services like Peacock and Paramount+ in recent years.

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Nielsen notes that total TV viewership hasn’t changed much — just the relative size of each piece of the pie. In other words, people don’t watch TV anymore; they watch the same amount of TV but in different ways.

The report also outlined the relative performance of various popular streaming platforms. The largest category was the catch-all “other streaming” at 10.2 percent of the streaming pie, but Netflix was the best single service at 8 percent. It was followed by YouTube at 7.3 percent, Hulu at 3.6 percent, Amazon Prime Video at 3 percent, Disney+ at 1.8 percent, and HBO Max at 1 percent.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Nielsen tracks data from playback on real TVs. This data doesn’t include mobile or desktop viewing, which would likely boost streaming even further.