Linear TV Dips Below Fifty Percent of All US TV Viewing for the First Time

Tim Cross 16 August, 2023 

Traditional linear TV viewing – made up of broadcast and cable viewing – accounted for less than half of all TV usage in the US in July according to Nielsen’s monthly The Gauge report. This marks the first time that linear TV has made up less than half of all TV time in America, a significant milestone as CTV usage continues to rise.

Meanwhile streaming – unsurprisingly – reached a new record high, accounting for 38.7 percent of all TV usage, with total time spent streaming via a TV set up 2.9 percent in July compared with June.

While the industry has been talking about the rapid growth of streaming for years, Nielsen’s data shows that the amount of streaming taking place on TV sets is still massively reshaping the TV landscape year-by-year. Compared with July 2022, streaming viewership has grown by 25.3 percent according to Nielsen, helping it gain 7.3 share points within total TV usage.

In fact, it was only one year ago that streaming overtook cable for the first time. Now it sits nearly ten percentage points ahead, a major shift over the course of the past year.

Nielsen’s The Gauge, July 2023 snapshot of broadcast, cable and streaming usage via television.

Splitting the streaming wars

Within the streaming category, YouTube remains top of the pile. The video sharing platform accounted for 9.2 percent of all TV screen usage – nearing its own milestone of ten percent of all TV screen time. Netflix was the closest behind, and top of the pile of the SVOD platforms, with 8.5 percent of total TV time. Hulu, in third place, sat at 3.6 percent of total screen time.

Nielsen’s data throws up some interesting insights. As already mentioned, the rise of YouTube – still often seen as primarily a mobile and desktop placed app – will take some by surprise. The fact that it’s close to accounting for one tenth of all TV screen time in the US – almost half of the time spent on all broadcast channels combined, means it’s now a bigger player on the big screen than many TV-first media businesses. And this figure doesn’t even include YouTube TV, YouTube’s vMVPD.

The level of concentration within the streaming category is also notable. YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu alone account for over fifty-five percent of all streaming time. YouTube alone accounts for nearly a quarter (23 percent) of all streaming time.

And the data also demonstrates that despite the level of spending by many participants within the streaming wars, sometimes it’s the more humble content which drives the best results – at least in terms of time spent watching. Suits, a lawyer drama which wrapped up in 2019 (hosted on both Netflix and Peacock) and Bluey, an Australian kids show which has picked up a rather devoted adult fanbase (hosted on Disney+) were the two most watched programmes in July, picking up 23 billion viewing minutes combined.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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