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Why Understanding Streamers is Critical to Local Ad Buys

As the U.S. appetite for streaming continues to increase, marketers need to do more to understand the characteristics of this category of viewers, what sets them apart from non-streamers and, importantly, how the streaming revolution is impacting local media markets.

These are the takeaways from Nielsen’s most recent Local Watch Report, which examines local-market consumer usage data in an effort to help marketers capitalize on the myriad opportunities attached to the growth of streaming. The focus is an important one, according to Nielsen Vice President of Local Insights Justin LaPorte. “As local markets continue to see growth in nonlinear TV usage…every entity that touches the local ad space in any market has to have clear insight into who’s watching what, and how.” Here are three of the report’s topline findings.

A Growing Audience
More than half (56%) of the U.S. adult population is streaming, up from 48% last year and 40% in 2017, according to Nielsen. Quantified a different way, the percentage of households that can stream TV programming has grown to 65% in 2019 from 59% in 2018 and 51% in 2017. People are spending two hours and four minutes streaming per day, up from 1:56 last year and 1:52 in 2017. This growth promises to be hugely advantageous to advertisers, given the targeting potential associated with viewing via OTT devices.

Separate but Equal
But understanding the characteristics of those who stream and those who don’t will be critical to such targeting, according to Nielsen, given that the differences between the two are significant. Streamers, not surprisingly, are younger (50 vs 62), more likely to be college-educated (43% vs 31%), earn higher incomes ($70K vs $45K) and many have children.

Non-streamers, Nielsen took care to note, exhibit different characteristics but are just as important to marketers given that they fit a profile coveted by insurance providers, health care, financial institutions and others looking to court an older, more conservative and less racially diverse cohort of consumers. Not surprisingly, a higher percentage of streamers own most devices, including those that are internet-connected: internet-enabled video game consoles, internet-enabled smart TVs, tablets and smartphones. The exceptions are also unsurprising: More non-streamers own DVRs and DVD/Blu-ray players.

Traditional TV Still Rules
All of that said, streamers and non-streamers alike are still spending most of their viewing time on traditional TV — which means that including streamers in local TV ad budgets is critical, according to LaPorte. Non-streamers spend fully 4 hours and 26 minutes per day watching broadcast and/or cable, and streamers spend a still-substantial 2 hours and 32 minutes doing the same.

Clearly, streaming is an important addition to linear rather than a full-on substitution. 82% of adult streamers watch linear broadcast stations, and nearly 90% watch linear cable networks.

Interestingly, streamers are big news viewers, even in traditional media. More than half (52%) of streamers watch a local newscast on TV (versus 67% of non-streamers). One quarter (26%) of streamers access local news on smartphones, versus 14% of non-streamers and 38% of streamers access local news on social sites versus 25% of non-streamers.

Location, Location, Location
In addition to noting the difference between streamers and non-streamers, the report identifies vast differences in behaviors according to market regions, data which has import to advertisers targeting specific locales. Austin has the highest concentration of adult streamers (70%), followed by Cincinnati (67%), Salt Lake City (66%) and San Diego (66%).

Ultimately, according to Nielsen, marketers need a more granular understanding of streamers vs non-streamers—cut regionally—to craft a strategy. “The end goal for our local clients should be to determine whether they can make adjustments to their streaming strategies,” LaPorte explained. “Seventy percent of Austin adults streamed to the TV set in May 2019, but only 45 percent of adults did in Pittsburgh. That’s a significant difference, and that type of data can be very useful to local stations, advertisers, and OTT providers.”