For the First Time, More Than Half of Americans Will Watch Streaming TV

For the First Time, More Than Half of Americans Will Watch Streaming TV

This will be a benchmark year for digital video usage, particularly streaming television. According to eMarketer’s latest forecast of digital video consumption, 2016 will be the first time more than half of the US population will watch TV shows online at least once a month. In 2016, 164.5 million Americans will watch digital TV—50.8% of the US population. That’s a jump from 47.8% last year.

Despite strong growth in digital TV viewership, traditional TV still dominates. This year, 205.7 million US adults will watch TV through traditional channels, including cable and satellite providers, while 129.7 million adults will watch digital TV. However, as digital TV viewership increases, that of traditional TV will decrease. By 2018, 202.1 million US adults will watch traditional TV, compared to 138.8 million US adults watching streaming TV.

“eMarketer’s latest forecast of digital TV and movie viewership points to a growing embrace of over-the-top video, partly at the expense of traditional TV,” said eMarketer senior analyst Paul Verna. “This trend is driven by an expanding range of viewing devices, by favorable shifts in consumer behavior and by a flood of new content from streaming services. Netflix, Amazon and Hulu now compete elbow-to-elbow with TV networks and film studios for original programming.”

Viewership of streaming movies is increasing as well, but will remain smaller than that of TV through 2019. This year, 120.6 million Americans will watch movies online at least once a month. That equates to 37.2% of the population and 45.4% of internet users.

Total digital video consumption—which includes everything from TV shows, movies, news, and even ads—will continue to rise. In fact, by 2017, more than two-thirds of Americans will watch digital video at least once a month. Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) are the biggest consumers of digital video. This year, 93.7% of millennial internet users will watch streaming video, with that figure climbing to 94.1% by 2019. More specifically, 96.5% of internet users between 18 and 24 will watch streaming video this year—reaching a near-saturation point.

“Younger millennials who came of age in the YouTube era see digital video as a pervasive activity that cuts across genres and screens,” said Verna. “They’re among the heaviest users of smartphones and tablets, and they routinely use those devices—along with laptops and connected TVs—to watch everything from how-to clips, gaming streams, humor videos and news blurbs to sports highlights, educational content, music clips and scripted dramas.”

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