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U.S. Streaming Tops Cable TV Viewing for First Time, Nielsen Says

Stranger Things (Courtesy of Netflix)

Americans now watch more stuff on TV from streaming services than either broadcast or cable TV.

Streaming platforms, led by Netflix, in July 2022 for the first time surpassed cable networks to claim the largest share of U.S. TV viewing for the month, according to new data from Nielsen. It was only a matter of time before the milestone was reached, as streaming usage has continued to climb while traditional TV declines amid the steady drip-drip-drip of cord-cutting losses.

For the month of July, streaming among American TV households represented a record 34.8% share of total consumption, while cable and broadcast came in at 34.4% and 21.6%, respectively. Streaming usage has surpassed that of broadcast before, but this is the first time it has also exceeded cable viewing.

Netflix again held the largest share of overall TV viewing among streaming platforms with 8.0% — a record high for the service. That was driven by nearly 18 billion viewing minutes of “Stranger Things 4” alone for July along with almost 11 billion minutes of combined viewing of “Virgin River” and “The Umbrella Academy.” In addition, Netflix original movies “The Sea Beast” and “The Gray Man,” starring Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas and Chris Evans, contributed over 5 billion minutes, per Nielsen.

Hulu’s record 3.6% share for July 2022 was helped by the second season of “Only Murders in the Building” and “The Bear,” which combined for about 3 billion minutes viewed.

Amazon’s Prime Video’s 3.0% share was driven by new series “The Terminal List” and new episodes of “The Boys,” which garnered over 8 billion combined viewing minutes.

Overall, streaming usage in July increased 3.2% compared with June and gained 1.1 share points. Time spent streaming in July averaged nearly 191 billion minutes per week, and each of the five measurement weeks in July 2022 now account for five of the six highest-volume streaming weeks on record, according to Nielsen.

Nielsen also called out the rise of viewing on digital pay-TV services (like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV) and apps from cable operators (like Comcast and Charter). All told, this category of content represented 11.2% of streaming and 3.9% of total TV usage in July.

Cable viewing in July declined 2% and dropped -0.7 share points compared with June, and year-over-year, cable usage was down -8.9% and -3.3 share points. Sports viewing posted the biggest decline for the cable TV category, dropping -15.4% from June and -34% from a year ago when the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics began.

Meanwhile, broadcast TV viewing — which historically sees a lull in new content until the fall season begins in September — was down -3.7% in July versus June and represented a loss of -0.8 share points. On a monthly basis, broadcast sports viewing declined -41% in July compared with June, and the year-over-year comparison showed a decline of -43%.

The NHL and NBA playoffs in June 2022 and July 2021 contributed considerably to the similarities in monthly and yearly decreases in broadcast sports viewing, in addition to the start of the Summer Olympics in July 2021.

Note that Nielsen’s comparisons here include only programming viewed on TVs and internet-connected TVs — it doesn’t account for mobile or web streaming. Nielsen’s The Gauge report combines two separately weighted panels. Streaming data is derived from a subset of the firm’s Streaming Meter-enabled U.S. TV households within the Nielsen National TV panel, and the linear TV sources and total usage are based on viewing from Nielsen’s overall TV panel.

Variety's Todd Spangler contributed to this post.


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