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Cable vs. Streaming: Cable, Satellite TV Still Popular, Streaming Services Gain Ground With Millennials

First Posted: Jun 24, 2014 04:54 PM EDT
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Photo : Reuters/Steve Marcus

With Hulu and Netflix viewership gaining speed, cable and satellite operators could see a decline in their industry. According to Harris Interactive, cable and satellite companies shouldn't be concerned as three-fourths of U.S. adults stated they regularly watch television through their providers.

In real-time television viewing, 77 percent of 2,300 U.S. adults polled said they regularly watch television via cable or satellite. Cable was the preferred choice with 55 percent, while satellite ranked second with 23 percent. Among the 77 percent, cable and satellite was more popular from baby boomers and Generation X (Gen X) than millennials. Between the ages of 18 and 36, millennials preferred watching cable or satellite television at 62 percent. Gen X, between the ages of 37 and 48, represented 50 percent ahead of baby boomers' -- ages 49-67 -- 85 percent.

While cable and satellite viewing was lowest among millennials, the demographic was highest for streaming. Millennials preferred streaming services, from apps and websites, with 67 percent, while the other generations were double-digits behind. Gen X preferred streaming with 44 percent, ahead of the 32 percent for baby boomers.

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A customer leaves a Time Warner Cable store in Palm Springs, California Jan. 29, 2014. (Photo Credit: Reuters/SteveMircovich).
(Photo : Reuters/SteveMircovich) A customer leaves a Time Warner Cable store in Palm Springs, California Jan. 29, 2014. (Photo Credit: Reuters/SteveMircovich).

For streaming, computers, both desktop and laptop, was the main choice for all demographics. Gen X managed to surpass millennials with computer streaming with 81 percent to 78 percent. Baby boomers ranked third with 64 percent.

Streaming onto television sets, which includes set-top streaming boxes, such as Apple TV and Roku or a game system, was also popular although behind computers with 55 percent among all generations. When splitting the demographics, streaming on television was popular with baby boomers with 58 percent. Millennials were narrowly behind with 57 percent ahead 44 percent from Gen X.

Smartphones and tablets are also popular for streaming programs. Smartphones were the preferred choice with 74 percent to tablets' 70 percent.

General television viewing has decreased compared to Harris Interactive's 2012 polling data. For 2014, non-streaming television viewing declined to 85 percent from 2012's 89 percent. The decline was evident among all three generations but notably millennials by 9 percentage points.

Overall streaming services increased slightly from 20 percent in 2012 to 23 percent this year. Among the three generations, Gen X and millennials saw the most gains in streaming usage compared to two years ago.

"Looking ahead, nearly two in ten [18 percent] expect to be watching more online/streaming television programming a year from now while [4 percent] expect to be watching less and half [50 percent] don't anticipate a change," Harris Interactive noted.

The survey also found 78 percent of respondents to be distracted while watching television.

"More specifically, more than six in ten [63 percent] engage in online activities; over one-third [35 percent] text, three in ten [30 percent] read a book, magazine or newspaper, and [7 percent] read a book on an electronic reading device. [22 percent] say they do other things."

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