×

Younger cord-cutters actually watch TV differently than cable subscribers

With the recent news that Time Warner is buying 10 percent of Hulu and Disney is readying a streaming ESPN service, it's clear that the networks are preparing for a future that isn't so reliant on cable TV services.

But cord-cutter behavior is different from their cable-subscribing counterparts — and it goes beyond not paying for traditional TV.

Cord-cutters and cord-nevers are showing distinctly different viewing habits than their counterparts.

For one thing, cable watchers make up their minds faster than at least some who watch entirely through streaming. The Reelgood Entertainment Habits Study found while cable TV viewers surf for about nine minutes before deciding what they want to watch, Netflix viewers spend almost twice as long — 17.8 minutes — before deciding on something. Reelgood conducted the 2,000 person study in conjunction with Learndipity Data Insights. It compared U.S. Netflix and cable TV viewers specifically.

Netflix watchers also place more value on friends' recommendations. About a third of Netflix viewers valued a friend's opinion on what to watch, while only 19 percent of cable TV viewers cared about recommendations, the Reelgood study found.

The survey also found Netflix viewers spend slightly more days watching entertainment than cable viewers (5.5 days on average versus five days). However, when it came to the number of shows watched per day, cable TV watchers averaged about four programs, while Netflix only watched three.

A Forrester study from December 2015 found a similar divergence in behavior among the groups. The survey of more than 32,000 U.S. cord-cutters and cable subscribers found that those with a cable subscription streamed an average of 4.6 hours of TV a week. Cord-cutters, on the other hand, streamed a whopping 10.2 hours a week. Cord-nevers averaged 7.9 hours, while those age 32 and up came in at about 3.9 hours.

Fifteen percent of Americans have quit their cable subscription — while another 9 percent have never had cable or satellite TV subscription at all, according to a December 2015 Pew Research Center report. Young adults were the most likely not to have cable, saying "alternative access" like internet or over-the-air antennas let them watch the shows they wanted.

The Pew survey determined cord-cutters were also more likely to live in lower-income households than those with cable subscriptions. The majority had smartphones, with a quarter being "smartphone only." A little over half had a home broadband subscription.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal, which is the parent company of CNBC, owns a stake in Hulu.