If there’s one luxury people miss from cable, it was simply turning on the TV and browsing for something to watch. But with a streaming landscape that becomes more fragmented each day, cord-cutters have to decide what service they’re going to watch first, then find content.
Given the abundance of options, what are people turning to by default?
For five years, Hub Research has been tracking television viewers’ “home base,” or the very first thing they turn on when watching TV. Their annual “Decoding the Default” study was recently released, and for the first time ever, online content is leading the way.
For this study, “online content” counts on-demand services like Netflix along with live services like YouTube TV and Sling TV.
Out of all the respondents to this year’s study, a full 50% say the very first thing they turn to is a streaming service. That’s up from 47% last year. 42% default to a set top box (either live or DVR), down from 47% last year. The remaining 11% look to over-the-air from an antenna first.
And of course, out of those who look to streaming first, Netflix is king, taking up almost half of that 50%. If you take a look back at data from 2016, the gap between cable and Netflix alone has closed from 48%-15% to 30%-23%, meaning Netflix trails cable as a whole by only 7 percentage points.
Only 14% of those aged 18-34 turn to cable first (down from 21% last year), with 34% of those aged 35-53 (down from 37%). The older generation does still have a strong lead in supporting cable, but even that percentage dropped from 53% in 2019 to 46% in 2020.
Why do people choose the option they do? The most popular answer was simply content – that option had a viewer’s favorite shows. Ease of use was close behind in second place.
Hub also delved into view loyalty, asking what service people would keep if they could only choose one. And surprisingly, traditional, live television led the way, taking 35% of the votes overall (56% of the votes if you just extract the people who chose cable as their default). Netflix was close behind at 32% though (61% if you just look at people who consider this their default). Hulu, Amazon, and Disney+ each accounted for about 13% each.
This study was conducted among just over 1,500 U.S. consumers aged 16 to 74, with broadband access at home and who watch a minimum of 1 hour of TV a week.
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Artie has a degree in English from UNC Charlotte. He has over 20 years of experience as a writer, starting as a freelancer in college. Artie was late to the streaming game but has cut the cord and is still enjoying documentaries and historical fiction without paying a cable bill every month.