When viewers first turn on their TV most are still initially turning to a live TV channel from their traditional provider – but MVPD’s spot as the default TV source has been dropping steadily in favor of online platforms, according to new findings from Hub Entertainment Research.
Hub’s annual “Decoding the Default” study found that 28% of consumers say linear channels from a cable, satellite or telco TV subscription is their TV “home base” – the highest percentage across any TV source.
However, that proportion has been steadily declining over the past seven years and reflects the lowest percentage since Hub started measuring default sources in 2015. For example, in 2016, nearly half of consumers (48%) said live TV from a MVPD was their default source for TV. That dropped more than 10 points to 37% by 2018, another seven points to reach 30% in 2020, and has continued to tick down single digits over the past couple of years.
And interestingly, the drop-offs aren’t at all bolstered when also adding in live TV from virtual MVPDs (such as Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV etc,).
“If anything, adding live from VMVPD shows an even more pronounced decline for live TV in general as the first stop for TV,” wrote Hub Research. “The percent turning first to VMVPD has not risen above 6% since we started measuring defaults.”
Including vMVPD, the overall percent of consumers that default to any live TV subscription is 32% in 2022 – down 3 points from 2021 and seven points lower than 2019.
And the reason being a default service is important, according to Hub, is because viewers are significantly more likely to remain loyal to it.
When asked which of their current TV services they would keep if they could only choose one, consumers ranged anywhere from 8% to 37% in naming each as the service they’d stick with. But among those who said they default to each service, the percent that said it would be the one service they’d keep jumps considerably to anywhere from 59% to 69%.
“At a time when the typical TV consumer uses an average of 7.4 different sources of TV content (Hub, The Best Bundle, 2022), simple penetration of a service in the marketplace is no longer a reliable measure of long term service success,” said Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the report, in a statement. “A much better predictor is how much consumers engage with each service they have—and in particular, which they consider their TV viewing home base.”
As traditional declines, online sources rise
And as live MVPD TV continues to lose prominence as the first-stop spot for TV viewing, online sources have continued to climb upward.
Netflix is the clear leader here (and also a lose second to live MVPD) with 23% saying it serves at their home base. No other individual source except live MVPD reached double digits. Behind Netflix was DVR at 8%; Hulu at 6%; OTA/antenna, Amazon Prime Video and live TV from vMVPDs all each notched 5%; Disney+ secured 3%; and VOD from MVPD and HBO Max each stood at 2%.
There’s also a marked difference in choice of default TV when looking at age. About 38% of viewers aged 18-34 make Netflix their first viewing choice, which is more than 3 times the proportion who default to live TV at 12%. Netflix’s position as the viewing default increased 7 percentage points among that age group since 2021. Meanwhile, half of 55+ year-olds opt for pay TV linear channels first, while only 8% stop at Netflix first.
And those that are 35-54 years old are now 7 points less likely to default to live TV (including vMVPD), with 31% saying they do so. Alongside that decrease was a 4-point jump in those defaulting a Big 5 SVOD other than Netflix in this age group.
And while live TV from MVPDs has a slight lead over specific services like Netflix – in general online sources dominate over traditional pay TV sources as the TV default. According to Hub, 57% say an online source is their TV home base (up 2 points from last year), while 38% say their first stop is from a pay TV set-top box – either live, DVR or VOD.
The decrease in live MVPD service as default TV comes as streaming recorded another record share for U.S. TV viewing time in August – reaching 35% and besting cable and broadcast, according to Nielsen data.