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Streaming Steams Ahead—But Don’t Count Out Linear TV

Streaming has achieved a new inflection point. According to Samba TV’s latest “State of Viewership” report, the majority of American homes have cut their cable subscriptions for the first time in history. Instead, 52% of US adults now access their media or entertainment via a streaming platform. “We have reached a critical turning point in television and viewing consumption,” said Ashwin Navin, Samba TV CEO and co-founder. “Streaming has become ubiquitous among every age group and ad-supported streaming has gone fully mainstream with significant expansion across new platforms including industry leaders like Netflix and Disney Plus entering the world of ads.”

These findings are in line with Nielsen data from last year, which showed a decline in traditional television-watching habits as more American families opted for streaming, prompting those services to claim the lion’s share of viewing hours. Insider Intelligence further supports the Samba TV report by predicting that US consumers will spend 52.3% of their total viewing time on digital platforms such as Netflix, YouTube and TikTok versus less than 50% on linear channels. In terms of hours, digital video viewing will increase to three hours and 11 minutes this year while TV time drops to two hours and 55 minutes. “The growth of digital video is especially impressive when you consider that, as recently as four years ago, it accounted for roughly half of TV time,” said Paul Verna, principal analyst and head of the digital advertising and media desk at Insider Intelligence. What’s more, the trend points to a continued blurring of lines between social sites and entertainment companies, as TikTok can now compete for screen time with media giants like Netfix. “TikTok versus Netflix will be a major trend to watch this year,” said Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence.

Cord-cutting has inarguably become the norm—but linear TV is by no means down for the count. Samba TV also notes that sports viewing on traditional television and cable channels remains in high demand. Football is the king of the sports category, with NFL content claiming the 25 most-watched linear programming spots. Women’s sports saw an increase in viewership last year. Many live sporting events featuring female athletes enjoyed triple digit year-over-year growth in 2022. The viewers who follow these programs and events are typically young and affluent, from all corners of the country, making them a demographic that advertisers want to reach. This means the current entertainment landscape offers dual formulas for success. Marketers can reach sought after consumers both by embracing a streaming-first mindset, and by connecting with audiences on the most popular linear channels.