Streaming Apparently Makes It Harder To Decide What To Watch


Results from a new report suggest the use of streaming services make it more difficult for viewers to choose what to watch.

The findings come from the latest Nielsen Total Audience Report and point to how streaming services now give consumers too much choice, which in some instances leads to consumers making no choice at all.

The two key points the report focuses on to make the assertion is that fifty-eight percent of respondents said they tend to "tune into their favorite channels" and that twenty-one percent eventually "decide not to watch and do another activity." This is in relation to when a user wants to watch something, but doesn't know exactly what they want to watch.


Building off of these points, the report argues that when looking to find content to watch, viewers prefer simply to revert back to their traditional viewing habits of tuning directly into a favorite channel or scanning through the channels. In the same sense, they do not prefer to browse subscription streaming service menus or watch recommended content from those services.

The report further asserts this is in part the result of streaming service menus not doing enough to engage the users in the first place.

As to be expected, the report did find these results vary somewhat when it comes to age differences. For example, Nielsen states that younger viewers are more likely than older viewers to navigate a streaming service's menu, watch recommendations watch "something different than usual," and/or "check out short clips online."


By the same token, those younger viewers were also found to be less reliant on tuning into their favorite channel or scanning through channels. For example, with 18-34 year-olds, fifty-three percent frequently 'tune in' while forty-five percent 'browse menus.' This compares to sixty-three percent of 35-49 year-olds who 'tune in' and thirty-four percent who 'browse menus.'

It is also worth pointing out that these are not either/or responses. In other words, it is not that fifty-eight percent of respondents overall 'tune in' compared to thirty-three percent overall that browse menus, but the results are based on the top two answers selected from a pre-set list by each user. Therefore, not only is this not a 100-percent total that's being discussed, but it is more of a ranking of the preferences of how viewers access content.

What's more, there's a far more revealing stat in the report which arguably offsets most of what is discussed and that's two-thirds of adult streamers in the U.S. "know exactly" what they want to watch when they sit down to watch. Considering the report is primarily focused on what viewers do when they do not know what to watch, the difference in the methods listed above are only relevant to the minority of cases to begin with.


What should be taken from this report is that streaming services, or more specifically SVOD services, are not a direct replacement for live TV. Instead, they are complementary and whether a viewer accesses live TV content via cable/satellite or through a live TV streaming service, they are still more likely to check "what's on now" than "what's available in general."

That's not quite the same as suggesting there's too much choice on offer, or that streaming services, SVOD or otherwise, need to do more to auto-direct viewers to content they might be interested in. After all, viewers who still pay for live TV are going to want to get their money's worth and considering that's the most expensive access point for viewers, it makes sense they would gravitate there first.

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Freelance Contributor

John has been writing about and reviewing tech products since 2014 after making the transition from writing about and reviewing airlines. With a background in Psychology, John has a particular interest in the science and future of the industry. John also covers much of the news surrounding audio and visual tech, including cord-cutting, the state of Pay-TV, and Android TV. Contact him at [email protected]

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