8 NOV 2022

How are consumers discovering their new favorite shows?

Streaming TV services continue to dominate traditional platforms as the home base for consumers’ recently-discovered favorite shows, according to Hub’s annual “Conquering Content” study.

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Since 2015, Hub’s annual “Conquering Content” study has examined the various ways TV consumers discover and watch TV shows and movies. This year, it has revealed that 7 in 10 consumers (71%) say they have discovered a show in the past year that has become a favorite – and a strong majority say that show is a show they watch on a streaming service. Moreover, 75% of those who have discovered a favorite show watch it online, versus 23% who watch from an MVPD source – live TV, video on-demand, or a DVR. The remaining 2% watch their newly discovered show via OTA.

Up until this year, these two viewing sources have been moving seemingly inexorably in opposite directions. However, according to Hub, something changed in 2022. The steady, year-by-year increase the industry has seen since 2016 for online sources as the home base for favorite shows has plateaued in 2022 – the 75% proportion is identical to 2021. On the flip side, the proportion watching their new favorite from an MVPD set-top box has increased two points, from 21% in 2021.

When focusing on the two most popular sources for favorite-show viewing, there is a significant change in direction. The proportion saying their new favorite show is a Netflix show peaked in 2020 (at 38%), dropped three points to 35% in 2021, and has declined a more dramatic six points in 2022, to 29%.

After reaching a low of 15% in 2021, live TV from a traditional MVPD service has jumped back up six points in 2022, to 21%. Also increasing since 2021 are the “Big 5 SVODs” outside of Netflix (Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max), which were up four points from 21% to 25%. Overall, the gap between Netflix and live TV is now only eight points, while the gap between Netflix and the other four of the top SVOD services, combined, is now only four points.

The rebound for MVPD in general and live TV in particular is explained by the specific favorite shows people have discovered. Of the 10 favorite shows viewers named most frequently, four of them – including three of the top four – are available on live TV: “Yellowstone,” “House of the Dragon,” “Ghosts,” and “NCIS.”

In other content news from the study, viewers continue to clamor for some way to search for content across all of the platforms they use, both linear and online. The proportion who agree (strongly or somewhat) that they want a “universal listing to find shows from any source”  has always been high in the “Conquering Content” study, but it is even higher in 2022: 61%, up six points since last year.

Some form of universal search already exists from a wide range of devices, from Smart TVs to streaming media players, and 48% of consumers say they have that capability today. But universal search is underperforming: those who have the capability use it only 41% of the time to find a specific show or movie when they do not know what platform it is on.

Once consumers do find a show or movie, how do they decide whether to watch? The study also underscores the growing importance of trailers in the viewing decision process. In fact, 63% agree that they are “more likely to try a new show if they can watch a trailer first.”

Not only are trailers more likely to influence decisions, but consumers are increasingly likely to discover shows from tailers that automatically play on a streaming interface. Among those who discovered a show from a trailer, 78% say that it auto-played without them deliberately selecting it, up nearly 20 points since just last year.

“Insert overused expression here: “content is king,” etc. But cliché or not, it is clear from these results that viewers will happily go to whatever platform has exclusive rights to the most popular TV shows and movies du jour. Over the past few years, those shows have been increasingly offered by streaming services. But as franchises like ‘Yellowstone’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ demonstrate, streaming does not have a necessary monopoly on buzz-worthy content,”  said Peter Fondulas, Principal at Hub and co-author of the report.

The data cited here come from Hub’s “Conquering Content” study, conducted among 1.602 US consumers with broadband, age 16-74, who watch at least one hour of TV per week. The data was collected in October 2022.