What Drives Viewers to Choose Their Default Source for Watching TV?

September 25, 2019

This article is included in these additional categories:

Broadcast & Cable | Digital | Pay-TV & Cord-Cutting | Television | TV Audiences & Consumption | Video

The days of consumers turning to one source to access their favorite shows are gone, as now the average US consumer watches shows and movies through more than four different sources. But which sources are people turning to first and what compels them to do so? A recent study [download page] by Hub Entertainment Research looked at just that; here’s what they found.

The study reveals that viewers have different motivations for choosing a default source of video entertainment. According to a recent report from Nielsen, some 96.1% of US homes with TVs receive a traditional TV signal or have a broadband connection. And, for those whose default source of TV viewing is live TV (which includes MVPD and virtual MVPD), their top reason mentioned is that it is, in fact, live (44%). The second most mentioned reason (37%) is live TV’s ease of use.

Among the respondents who default to watching shows on DVR (from MVPD), the majority (69%) say they do so because they are able to skip commercials. Ease (38%) and binge-viewing (32%) are other reasons mentioned.

The desire to avoid commercials is also the #1 reason mentioned by 52% of respondents who default to watching Netflix. This corresponds with other research that found that nearly half (49%) of Netflix subscribers are unlikely to change to an ad-supported Netflix subscription if one were made available.

Interestingly, the top reasons for choosing SVODs as the default viewing platform are not the same across SVODs. While some 37% of consumers who default to watching Amazon Prime say no commercials is their reason, the most mentioned reason is variety (46%).

For Hulu, which does have an ad-supported subscription level, avoiding commercials is not even within the top 4 reasons mentioned. Instead, viewers who default to Hulu mainly do so because it gives them access to the latest shows (44%), followed closely by binge-viewing (43%).

Top Default Sources

Last year, live TV and over-the-air sources of TV were eclipsed by on-demand viewing sources as the first source consumers turned on when they wanted to watch TV. This year, live TV from MVPD remains the single most common default source for TV viewing, with about one-third (34%) of respondents making it their go-to form of TV watching. However, the percentage of viewers defaulting to live TV continues to drop.

As a side note, though, this percentage goes up when those consumers who default to live TV from a vMVPD is factored into the equation, lifting the percentage to 39%. In fact, while the number of respondents who default to Live TV from MVPD and vMVPD has decreased slightly from 2018 (40%), those respondents who say their default source for watching TV is live TV from vMVPD has risen from 3% last year to 5% in 2019.

Netflix, which had been benefiting from a steady increase as a default source for watching TV for the past few years, actually saw the percentage of viewers who default to the streaming service dip to 21% (compared to 23% in 2018) for the first time. This is a surprising finding considering that more viewers are now turning to Netflix to watch their favorite shows than traditional TV. However, it may reflect increased competition from other streaming providers.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 1,668 US TV consumers ages 16-74 years old who watch at least one hour of TV per week and have broadband at home. Data was completed in June 2019.

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