TV viewers in the United States are increasingly likely to go straight to a streaming service when they first turn on their television sets, according to the September “Decoding the Default” study from Hub Entertainment Research.

From a year a ago, the number of U.S. consumers who turn on a streaming service immediately has risen 16 points, the data revealed. More than half of all TV viewers surveyed said their default programming source is an online streaming service, whether that is a premium subscription service like Netflix, a free streaming service with ads like Pluto TV, or a live TV OTT streaming service such as YouTube TV.

The Hub study polled 1,616 U.S. consumers between the ages of 16-74 who said they have broadband access and watch a minimum of one hour of TV per week. Hub believes identifying default programming sources is important in determining services that are stickiest as viewers assess which services to keep and which to trim over time.

Digging deeper the report found 55% go straight to an online service upon turning on their television set, up 5 points from 2020, while only 39% first turn to a traditional pay-TV service set-top box, down 3 points.

The report found that those who said they only use streaming services changed little (19%) over the past year, but the number of those who use a traditional TV service exclusively was cut in half, with seven in 10 respondents indicating they now use both, up 10 points from 2020.

As for the number of streaming services used, Hub said “In 2018, the average respondent in our studies used a total of three different TV sources. In 2021, that has increased to almost six sources per viewer. This growth is being driven by the launch of new streaming platforms, a surge in use of free-with-ads platforms, and a shift by many providers to make their best content available on streaming platforms.”

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“As more subscription video on demand services [SVODs] have launched, the number with no major SVODs has not changed much. But the proportion using
multiples has grown immensely, and far fewer people are using just one,” the study continued.

Meanwhile, the most popular subscription streaming service, Netflix, lost some momentum as a default programming source since 2020.

Until 2018, Netflix was moving in on replacing traditional pay-TV, single-handedly, as a first-stop default programming choice. Since then, the number has leveled off and dropped 3 points in the last year.

Younger viewers (18-34 year olds) in the study are increasingly more likely to first go to the other streaming services than Netflix as their top TV destination, with some 31% of 18-34 year olds indicating Netflix was their first stop channel source, down 8 points from a year ago.

Other services gaining on Netflix since 2020 include: Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and HBO Max, which have collectively gained 4 points in the last 12 months.

By age groups, younger viewers are the least likely to first turn on live TV channels, and falling, with only one in 10 18-34 year olds saying they default to live TV channels.

The proportion defaulting to live TV was lower than in 2019 in every age group, Hub found.

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By Greg Tarr

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