Streaming viewership surpasses cable TV in the US for the first time

It seemed only a matter of time before streaming would overtake at least one form of conventional TV, and now that moment has arrived. Nielsen data indicates that the number of streaming TV viewers in the US surpassed cable for the first time in July. About 34.8 percent of the viewing time went to shows on Internet services, or slightly more than the 34.4 percent for cable. Streams haven’t caught up with traditional TV as a whole (broadcasts still accounted for 21.6 percent), but it’s clear that online video is attracting more attention.

The shift was aided by a flurry of major releases. Netflix had most of the streaming time (8 percent), thanks in large part to demand for Stranger Things 4. However, Hulu also claimed a record 3.6 percent thanks to Only murders in the building and The bear. Amazon Prime Video, meanwhile, boomed 3 percent with help from the boys‘ third season and The terminal list. YouTube and YouTube TV together earned 7.3 percent.


Cable’s dependence on sports also played a role. While the medium’s total viewership dropped 8.9 percent year-over-year, sports viewing figures dropped 34 percent without the aid of the Summer Olympics and late-running playoffs for the NBA and NHL. Broadcast TV fared even worse, with an overall drop of 9.8 percent and 41 percent for sports.

It is not certain that streaming will maintain this momentum. Still, this is an important milestone that can affect the content you see. Creators and TV providers now know that you’re streaming rather than browsing cable channels – don’t be surprised if more money goes to programs that are mainly or exclusively online.

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