The News Won’t Break – Amid Rise of Online Video, Old Standards Live News and Sports Connect Viewers with Pay TV

By December 17, 2018Our Ideas

Since 2010, Altman Vilandrie & Company has conducted an annual survey on U.S. consumer video viewing habits. The survey chronicles the video preferences of U.S. consumers on topics like mobile viewing, program choices, online subscription rates and more. The survey results have helped guide business decisions of content providers, distributors, and investors and have informed thought leadership on a variety of issues concerning the video and Pay TV industries.

Fast Facts:

  • More than 60% of U.S. viewers now subscribe to paid video services, with a majority subscribing to at least one video service and a pay TV provider.
  • 63% of all viewers selected live news as the reason to subscribe to Pay TV.
  • Five of top six “must-have” programs were news or sports.
  • Younger viewers have significantly more “must-have” shows than older ones.
  • Stranger Things, The Big Bang Theory are must-have shows across all age demographics.

Online video subscribers still strong

The survey reveals the continued growth in popularity of online video services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Overall, 61 percent of consumers subscribe to at least one video service, with middle-aged viewers subscribing at the highest rates: 68 percent of 35-44-year-olds subscribe to at least one video service, and 45 percent to two or more.

However, 52 percent of consumers subscribe to at least one online video service and a pay TV provider,

Viewers still “must have” live news, sports

Respondents were asked to choose their “must have” programs from a list of 235 popular programs from network, cable and streaming services. Across all respondents, five of the top six programs were live news and sports: 1) favored local news program, 2) favored national news program, 3) National Football League, 4) Big Bang Theory, 5) NCAA Football, 6) Major League Baseball. Sports interest slipped for the youngest viewers (18-24), with only live NFL and National Basketball Association programing ranking in the top 20 priority programs.

However, 52 percent of all Pay TV customers indicated that live sports was a top reason for subscribing to Pay TV. Similarly, 63 percent of all viewers selected live news as a reason to subscribe.

“Must-have” choices reveal age preferences, ‘Strange’ bedfellows

The “must have” programs show clear viewing differences among the various age groups. Younger viewers had many more “must-have” programs than older viewers, which indicates an opportunity for both Pay TV and streaming providers to feed millennials’ large appetite for video content.  Sixty-nine programs were deemed “must have” by 20 percent or more of 18-24-year-old viewers, compared to 22 programs for 25-34-year-olds and nine for those 55-plus.

In addition to placing a high value on live news and sports, viewers 55 and older gravitated toward programs on network TV, particularly crime and medical dramas. Younger viewers pulled their top choices for content from a broader variety of sources and formats, including cartoons, cooking shows, and science fiction/fantasy.  There were some areas of overlap, specifically Stranger Things, which was the top “must have” show for viewers under 35 and also ranked high for older viewers.  Big Bang Theory was ranked in top five for all age demographics.

Finding modern content, the old-fashioned way

Consumers turn to friends and acquaintances more than any other source when making viewing decisions. Sixty percent of all consumers – including 64 percent of younger viewers (18-34) and 57 percent of 55+ viewers – said that “word of mouth” was their preferred way to choose TV programs. For younger viewers, that result outpaced “video service recommendations” (53%) and “social media ads” (42%).

Another more established advertising method, “on air commercials on the show’s network” placed second in the rankings with 54 percent of overall viewers.

Altman Vilandrie & Company fielded the online survey in August 2018 to more than 5,000 respondents provided by Research Now SSI. In 2018, the annual consumer video survey analyzed the impact of collections of specific programs on pay TV adoption and viewing.  For questions on the survey, please contact