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Americans Now Prefer Streaming Video to Live TV, Study Finds

Streaming video has overtaken live television as America’s viewing method of choice, according to the ninth edition of the Deloitte Digital Democracy Survey, the results of which were released April 22.

About 56% of consumers now stream movies each month, and 53% stream television programming each month, as opposed to only 45% of consumers who watch TV live. More than 42% of American households subscribe to specialized video streaming services — and more than 68% of consumers say they use streaming services to “binge watch,” or watch more than three episodes of a program at a time.

“Personal viewing experiences and the ability to consume media at your own pace is significantly impacting how U.S. consumers value their content devices and services,” said Gerald Belson, vice chairman of Deloitte and U.S. Media and Entertainment sector leader, in a news release. “Today, binge watching, and the ability to watch what we want, when we want and where we want, is an exciting cultural phenomenon that is shifting consumer behaviors and attitudes towards curating an individual experience.”

Internet video services are highly valued especially among consumers Deloitte classifies as “Trailing Millennials,” those aged 14 to 25. Among that group, 72% rated streaming video as a highly valuable service, as opposed to just 58% for paid TV. The survey found that 25% of Trailing Millennials had either canceled or hadn’t had paid TV services in the past year.

Older consumers were far more likely to prefer old-fashioned paid TV. Among Generation X (consumers aged 32-48), 80% of those surveyed cited paid TV as a highly valuable service, as opposed to only 47% for Internet streaming. The gap widened further among Baby Boomers, 89% of whom said paid TV was valuable, as opposed to just 43% who said the same for streaming.

The Internet, particularly accessed via mobile devices, is increasingly becoming a part of media viewing experiences; even when watching traditional television, 57% of viewers simultaneously use the web. Many marketers are scrambling to leverage these so-called second-screen opportunities even as they adjust their strategies to account for the growing dominance of online video.

The Deloitte study, which involved more than 2,000 participants, found that about 90% of consumers multitask in some way while watching TV, with both Millennials and Gen Xers engaging in three additional activities, on average. The study found, however, that “multitasking activities, while abundant, are not usually tied to television programs being watched.”

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