Harris Poll: TV Still Dominant Viewing Choice, But Millennials Driving Gains in Streaming

Streaming continues to slowly gain ground on more traditional modes when it comes to the ways Americans most often watch television programs — though it’s in no danger of overtaking them in the immediate future.

That’s one of the main takeaways in a recent survey by The Harris Poll, which found that 85% of Americans say they most often watch TV on, a TV (live feed, recorded or on demand). This is down from 89% in 2012, while at the same time streaming is most often used by 23% of Americans, up from 20% just two years ago. This preferential shift is strongest when looking at Millennials (ages 18-36), among whom non-streaming TV preference has declined from 77% to 68% while streaming preference has grown from 41% to 47%.

Nearly a quarter of Americans (23%) say they’re watching more online/streaming television programming now than they were a year ago, while 37% say their online/streaming viewership is no different than last year and 7% say they’re watching less this way now than a year ago. Looking ahead, nearly two in ten (18%) expect to be watching more online/streaming television programming a year from now while 4% expect to be watching less and half (50%) don’t anticipate a change.

Nearly four in ten Americans (38%) say they’ve subscribed to premium cable channels in order to watch specific shows, while one-fourth (24%) have subscribed to one or more streaming services for the same reason.

Looking specifically at streaming TV’s core constituents (those who say it’s their preferred choice), half say they’ve subscribed to streaming services for access to specific shows.

Also, six in 10 streaming-dominant viewers would like to be able to watch TV pilots and vote on what gets ordered as a full series; four in 10 would be willing to pay extra for a service that allowed them to stream current shows ad-free; and nearly nearly four in 10 (37%) would pay more for a streaming service that allowed them to temporarily download TV episodes, for when they’re away from an Internet connection.

Among those who regularly watch television shows via streaming, three-fourths (74%) use a computer to do so, while just over half (55%) use a television (whether via a set-top box, a game system or a television with integrated online capabilities).

Distracted viewing continues to be the norm, with nearly eight in ten U.S. adults (78%) saying they’re ever doing other things while watching TV.  More specifically, 63% engage in online activities; 35% text; 30% read a book, magazine or newspaper; 7% read a book on an electronic reading device; and 22% say they do other things.

The Harris Poll of 2,300 adults was conducted online from April 16-21, 2014. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population.

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