Survey Finds TV Viewers See Clear Product Differences In Streaming, Linear

Tess Erickson, Sr Research Analyst - Broadbeam Mediaby Tess Erickson, Senior Research & Strategy Analyst

People turn on their TV for many different reasons: to be entertained, informed or to just to relax. Today, turning on the TV — whether it be linear, traditional TV or streaming video viewing — can range from the click of a button to a multi-step process, which led us to ask: what factors drive today’s viewer to decide to flip through the channels on traditional linear television or click open a video app? The type of content viewers prefer to watch on each platform is an important piece of that puzzle.

Our recently-fielded new media lifestyle survey sought to understand how viewers approach the transforming media landscape — from traditional TV and subscription services (both paid and ad-supported) to social video. What we found was that the increased time spent with media has encouraged clear product differentiation among consumers.

When someone turns on their TV to select the bright app button for their subscription streaming services, they’re looking for a specific, high-production, quality experience that fits into their schedule: new dramas and comedies, action/adventure series and new movie releases with high budgets and impressive effects, along with kids and family programming accessible whenever needed in a kid-safe environment.

When they flip on the TV to watch traditional linear programming however, viewers are looking for content from two ends of the spectrum: either part of their daily life with a shorter shelf-life like national and local news, talk shows and sports, or classic scripted programming, maximizing the passive viewing experience.

This maximized passive experience is especially relevant to the way people are turning to video to find a little calm. Because “relaxing” means very different things to different people, the genre and the platform they turn to varies widely.

Comedies, dramas and documentaries are popular relaxing genres across platforms. Nostalgic programming was popular on both platforms as well, though people were more likely to select a classic movie to stream knowing they have two hours to sit down. They’re more likely to flip to a classic TV show on broadcast or cable reflecting the lower level of commitment needed from linear TV.

What really differentiated traditional TV as the more popular platform to turn to for relaxation was the availability of sports and reality TV. While subscription streaming has crept into the reality TV space in the last few years, the legacy and timeliness of reality TV on linear has maintained its place as its preferred platform.

Traditional TV’s lead in relaxing content is important to understanding the platforms’ audience and future. Among people who watch traditional TV on at least a weekly basis, 46% said if they could only keep one video platform it would be linear; among viewers who said traditional TV is the place they find the most relaxing content, this rose to 72%, underlining that the people turning to TV to “turn off” will be continuing to rely on the familiar TV experience for its legacy offerings as well as the low-effort viewing currently only offered by linear TV.

As programmers and advertisers begin to look towards the new season, incorporating the new media habits Americans developed over the last year is crucial in meeting the demands for types of programming on the appropriate platform for delivery.