Share of smart TVs only accessing content via streaming climbs in Q1

New data about TV viewership methods from Vizio’s Inscpae shows the percentage of U.S. smart TVs only accessing content via streaming continued to rise in Q1, even as cable and other traditional inputs remained the go-to for major live events like the NCAA March Madness tournament.

According to Inscape’s Q1 2024 TV Market Trends report, based on both traditional linear and streaming data collected from more than 23 million opted-in smart TVs, the percentage of U.S. smart TVs that only streamed content (meaning no content accessed via traditional cable, satellite or over-the-air OTA antenna inputs) reached 58% during the first three months of 2024. At the same time, the percentage of smart TVs used to access content via both streaming and cable, satellite or OTA dipped to 38%. While over a third of smart TVs are still utilizing a mix of both streaming and traditional inputs, the figure represents a declining share for that hybrid cohort as the percentage of streaming-only smart TVs keeps growing. For context, just two years ago the share of smart TVs used for streaming only and the share that accessed content through both traditional and streaming inputs were equal, when each accounted for 46% in Q1 2022.

“With more smart TVs solely streaming content, about two-thirds of smart TVs are not accessing content via cable, satellite or OTA at all,” wrote Inscape in the report.

That said, smart TVs that are either only accessing via cable, satellite or OTA or using those methods alongside streaming still accounted for 43% share in Q1. While the share of smart TVs using a mix of both streaming and traditional inputs declined both year over year and from Q4 2023 to Q1 2024, the percentage accessing content only via cable, satellite or OTA – aka not streaming at all - remained relatively steady at about 5%. This could indicate that those previously in the hybrid cohort have shifted habits and are contributing to increasing streaming-only’s share, while the non-streaming cohort remains traditional TV input stalwarts.

Inscape Q1 2024 trends report graph 1

(Note virtual MVPDs like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Fubo are included in Inscape’s streaming share percentages, as content is delivered via the internet – but vMVPD TV packages typically deliver top cable networks and live programming including news and sports with lineups that are more akin to traditional pay TV.  In addition, streaming includes apps from traditional MVPDs like Charter's Spectrum TV app. Inscape streaming viewership figures also include third-party streaming devices but do not include gaming consoles.)

A greater proportion of smart TVs were tapped only for streaming content in Q1, but that didn’t necessarily translate to streaming capturing a higher share U.S. households’ time spent viewing or more apps being used – both metrics which stayed flat quarter over quarter.  Overall, streaming’s share of time spent viewing for U.S. TV households dipped from Q4 slightly in Q1 to 57%, as did cable and satellite, which captured 33% in the period. Compared to Q1 2023, streaming’s share of time spent viewing increased around four percentage points in the first three months of 2024, while cable and satellite dropped about five points.

Inscape Q1 2024 trends report graph 2


And an increase in share of smart TVs only accessing content via streaming doesn’t mean consumers have a boundless appetite for apps. According to Inscape’s report the average number of native apps used per smart TV was around 5.5 in Q1, an amount that has leveled off over the last few quarters.

Inscape wrote that “this signals a stabilization in TV viewing behavior and a clear limit on how many apps people are willing to use. In this case, more clearly isn’t better.”  

The first quarter was also home to large live events, including this year’s particularly popular NCAA March Madness basketball tournament – with traditional inputs (cable, satellite and OTA) continuing to reign in Q1 for accessing sports (72%) and news (80%) programming.  For the NCAA March Madness tournament specifically, traditional TV inputs accounted for almost 73% of viewing time for the women’s competition and nearly 69% for the men’s.

Although traditional inputs continued to dominate the lion’s share of live linear TV viewing time (over 75% overall in Q1 2024), smart TVs can access an increasing amount live, linear-style programming on streaming including through FAST channels, live TV options from virtual MVPDs and other streamers who have added live content to their apps. In Q1, streaming’s share accounted for nearly a quarter of live linear TV viewing on smart TVs, down slightly from Q4 but up from about 18% a year ago.   

Inscape Q1 2024 trends report graph 3