Survey: Viewers 'Streaming' to Online Options

Large majority subscribe to at least one streaming service
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The National Cable & Telecommunications Association's rebranding of its annual show to "Internet" and "television" was clearly the right way to go if a new survey has it right.

According to just-released findings, 80% of video streamers subscribe to at least one streaming service in addition to, or instead of, a pay TV service from a cable, satellite or IP TV company.

The survey, commissioned by CSG International, a supplier of billing and customer care services for several of the nation’s largest ISPs and MVPDs, also found that 79% of streamers primarily stream to their TV sets.

Among millennials, over half spend more time watching Internet video on their TVs than traditional TV.

Almost three-quarters (72%) said that sports was the most important stream.

"[S]treaming services with the highest subscription rates offer original content and sports content," the study found. "To align with these trends, the ability to offer new skinny bundles and innovative OTT-like services will become increasingly important for Pay TV providers."

Streamers say they are watching more than 26 hours of online television each week, with half of that on services including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.

The report concludes the way to get a bigger piece of that online video action is:

"Not by an intensifying price war, but by offering more options for packaging and pricing the specific content that streamers want. Personalize the bundle.

"Provide a user experience on par with the most popular competitors, making content transportable across devices and providing enhanced features like recommendations and search, not only for a single service but across as many distinct services through partnerships wherever possible.

"Offer aggregated billing, discounting and payment options to the all-important subscribers of more than one service or type of content."

Millennials see decreasing value in traditional pay services, says the survey, and 20% said they planned to switch, downgrade or disconnect their pay services in the next year. They also are the biggest commercial skippers (via bathroom breaks and snack runs in particular). Among those 18-24, 43% always or often avoid commercials, compared to 35% of the general population.

And in a finding that could buoy, at least slightly, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's push for uniting video services in single access devices, 48% said they would "greatly value" centralized search across all their paid subscriptions, regardless of provider, though cable operators point out that they are already launching apps that can reside side-by-side with other online services on, say, a Roku platform, just not disaggregated program streams and data, as the chairman has proposed.

The survey was conducted in January 2016 among 1,900 randomly chosen adult broadband users that stream video—short or long, free or paid service—on one or more connected device.

CSG clients include Charter Communications, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Dish, ESPN and Verizon.