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Netflix usage surpassed cable and satellite TV for the first time in 2018

Published Jan 31st, 2019 10:05PM EST
Netflix vs cable
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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The streaming video landscape is definitely going to look more interesting — and fragmented — than ever as 2019 continues to unfold, with established names like Netflix and Hulu continuing to grab market share as traditional cable providers try anything to slow down their bleeding of subscribers and new contenders like Disney+ enter the picture. For proof of how dramatic a shift is currently under way, PwC is also out with its annual streaming and pay-TV report (A New Video World Order) which includes this revealing statistic among a ton of other insights:

The number of consumers subscribed to pay TV dropped from 73% to 67% last year — no surprise there — while Netflix usage (76%) surpassed cable and satellite for the first time.

For the report, PwC surveyed a set of 2,016 people in the US between the ages of 18 and 59, with annual household incomes above $40,000, to get a better sense of the viewing choices that consumers are making. “As pay TV subscriptions continue to decline,” the report notes, “they are replaced by a number of live and on-demand streaming options that continue to grow by the day.

“Viewers can use a dizzying array of services to create their own consumption ‘nirvana.’ However, there is bound to be an upper limit on both how many different services a consumer is willing to pay for and how much time she has in the day to consume. This leads some in the industry to believe the growth in content and platforms may not be sustainable over the long term.”

Which is why we’re seeing continued jockeying now as all the various streamers try to solidify their place in this new landscape, with Netflix recently implementing its headline-making price increase and Hulu following suit with a price drop.

The PwC report is particularly revealing in terms of showing how people feel about the various services, not just what they’re paying for and why. For example, AI-driven recommendations form a familiar part of the user experience for these streaming platforms. The whole “if you like this, check this out” recommendation engine these services employ is meant to keep you hooked into the service for as long as possible. And yet, according to this report, most consumers still aren’t the biggest fans of this kind of computer-generated list of suggestions.

Per the report, more than one-third of consumers (36%) think that it needs to be easier overall to find what they want to watch. And only 21% of consumers think their streaming service knows what they’d like to watch better than they do.

Meanwhile, here are a few other statistics that should serve as something of a warning to these streaming services, no matter which one we’re talking about. Again, from the report:

Only 12% of consumers say they can find content easily on the streaming service of their choice, a reference to what they believe are overly complicated layouts. Also, “Despite the seductive pull of streaming services, 50% of the consumers in our focus group said they would eliminate a provider if the service was overwhelming (too much content) or inconvenient (not enough ways to overcome poor discovery.)”

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.