A fifth of TV time in OTT-enabled homes is spent watching streaming services, report says

Key Points
  • According to a new report from Nielsen, 19% of the time consumers in OTT-capable homes are spending on TV is going to streaming.
  • Netflix held the biggest share of streaming time in the fourth quarter, followed by YouTube, Hulu, Amazon and other services.
  • Top reasons consumers gave for cancelling paid video services included not using it enough to make the cost worth it or because they switched to a free subscription video streaming service.
Al Roker, NBCUniversal kicks off it's new Peacock streaming service on TODAY at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.
Nathan Congleton | NBCU

Streaming content is taking over America's televisions.

According to a new report from Nielsen, 19% of the time consumers spent watching TV in OTT-capable homes in the fourth quarter of 2019 was spent on streaming, whether it was ad-supported or paid subscription services. That's up from 10% in an early 2018 report.

The streaming wars are poised to heat up in a big way this year. HBO Max is scheduled to launch in May and NBC Universal's Peacock will launch in July, following the recent debuts of Disney+ and Apple TV+, all of which are hoping to take on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video in the battle for over-the-top (OTT) viewers and cord cutters.

CNBC also reported last week ViacomCBS has plans for a streaming service that would build on CBS All Access with assets from Pluto TV, and would offer ad-free and ad-supported versions.

To make money from streaming, those companies charge monthly subscriptions or provide ad-supported content or some combination of the two, like Hulu or Peacock.

And all of those services mean more content. According to Nielsen, citing data from its media and entertainment metadata provider Nielsen Gracenote, U.S. consumers had access to 646,152 unique program titles across linear and streaming services in 2019, nearly 10% more than were available in 2018.

Thirty-one percent of that streaming time went to Netflix in the fourth quarter of 2019, while 21% was spent watching YouTube, 12% was spent watching Hulu and 8% was spent watching Amazon Prime Video. Twenty-eight percent was spent watching other services.

According to a consumer survey from November that is based on a "representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults 18+ who currently use streaming video and/or audio services," 91% of respondents said they subscribed to a paid streaming video service.

The survey found 96% of respondents aged 18 to 34 subscribed to a paid streaming video service, while 47% of respondents aged 18 to 34 claimed to subscribe to three or more paid services. 

As for why consumers surveyed were canceling paid video services, 42% of consumers surveyed said they cancelled because they weren't using it enough to make the cost worth it, while 22% said they had switched to a free subscription video streaming service.

Others said they'd watched all the content they were interested in, switched to different paid services, weren't happy with the quality of a service or had finished watching a program. Ten percent said they had subscribed to a cable, satellite or fiber optic service, and 7% said they were no longer interested in streaming video.

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Disclosure: Peacock is the streaming service of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.