Any business who touches the television industry – the networks, cable and distribution providers, mobile companies, advertisers – is focused on online streaming of content, its impact on live viewership, and what type of strategy is needed. Some reports put December 2013 online video consumption at 188.2 million U.S. consumers with a 50% increase in the number of hours of online content viewed. And where eyeballs go, so do the advertisers: online advertising spend is expected to triple in the next five years.

So, does this mean that all TV advertisers should be allocating or shifting significant dollars to ads attached to streaming content? Will video-on-demand services from cable providers and “DVR’ing it” soon be dead?


CivicScience decided to dig into the streaming TV content viewer a bit deeper, and let our consumer research data give us an accurate depiction of this audience and how they compare to viewers of live or recorded (on demand/DVR) TV programming.  Over several weeks in late April 2014 through early May 2014, we posed the question: “What is the primary way you watch TV?” asking them to choose between online streaming, live TV, on demand, DVR, or other. During that time, we collected responses from over 9,000 U.S. consumers through our syndicated polling network and InsightStore™ platform, cross-tabbed them against others questions of ours they’ve answered over time, and surfaced some interesting findings. (The full, detailed PDF report is available here for free – no login required either.)

Overall, the profile of the streaming TV viewer should come as no big surprise. Younger people (under age 25) are 2X-2.5X more likely to use online streaming vs. on demand/DVR and watching live TV. Other demographic data are proxies for their youthfulness: they are more likely to have lower incomes (less than $50K per year in household income), live in urban areas, and are not parents or homeowners.

Primary way people watch TV by age group

However, some interesting insights also emerged from our demographic analysis:

  • Women are more likely (8%) than men to watch TV via online streaming.
  • Streaming and on demand/DVR viewing preferences get closer among 25-34 year olds (24% vs. 22%).
  • On demand/DVR viewing is highest among 25-44 year olds, at 22%, and is more likely to be popular with parents and suburbanites.
  • Live TV viewers are much more likely to be in the older age groups (45 and over).
  • Income wise, online streaming popularity drops to its lowest among those making $75K-$100K per year in household income (at 10%), but begins to slightly climb among those making over $100K.

Next we looked into the behavioral and psychographic data about these different TV viewer types, by automatically comparing how they responded to hundreds of other questions in the CivicScience platform. We selected several main categories of questions to analyze: degree of which they are discriminating shoppers, market mavens, social media users, and TV content preferences.

As you might suspect, the heavy age skew towards online streaming meant that these generally younger, more urban viewers ranked very high in questions related to web-based and technology-based behaviors and attitudes. That said, there are some interesting things to call out here:

Discriminating Shopper Index: Online streaming TV viewers are the most discriminating shoppers of these three groups, as they are more likely to showroom in stores, less likely to be brand loyal, and generally do more online research before making purchases in stores. But they are less likely to compare prices than on demand/DVR viewers.

Market Maven Index: The “streamers” and on demand/DVR viewers both rank higher than the general U.S. population on our market maven index, with streamers being most likely to say they write negative product reviews and on demand/DVR viewers more likely to tell others about their favorite products.

Social Media Index: Not surprisingly, the streamers rank very high on the social media use index, and particularly high in their use of Pinterest. On demand/DVR viewers (who are more likely to use Facebook) and live TV viewers both rank below the general population in our social media use index.

TV Content Index: Here, streaming viewers rank substantially lower in being fans of various TV genres (and as expected, also rank low in saying ads on TV influence them). Streamers tend to favor sitcoms more than the other groups. Live TV viewers are more likely to be bigger fans of news programming and influenced by TV ads, while on demand/DVR viewers rank higher for dramas, lifestyle, and music shows.

As the final piece of our analysis, we looked at how these different TV viewing groups compared to the U.S. general population in brands that they highly favor (i.e. for which they over-index). Here are some of the results:

Top Over-Indexed Brands Among Different TV Viewer Types

With online ad sales already passing that of broadcast TV, it is clear that those vying for consumers’ attention are chasing the streaming content viewer. But while that growth in online content consumption may be growing fast, the purchasing (income) power among its core demographic today is not there, so some advertisers may be betting on “futures” here. The good news is women seem to index higher among this group, and they tend to hold more purchasing influence and decision making across all age groups.

It’s also clear from our data that the 25-44 year old, suburban family home with a healthy household income level today tends to favor viewing their TV programming using their cable or satellite provider’s on demand service or DVR system. They are also more likely than the other viewer types to say they get fashion inspiration from TV.

As for the live TV viewer, they should not be dismissed just yet: at 47% of respondents, this dominates among the primary ways people watch TV, when weighted for U.S. census figures for gender and age, 13 and older. This group is more likely to watch the most hours of TV among all groups, tune in to local TV news each day, have children and grandchildren to buy for, and are more likely to admit that TV advertising influences them quite nicely.

The full detailed report from CivicScience is available in an online PDF here, no login required.