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More Americans using only their phones to stream video content, study reveals

The latest DASH TV Universe Study shows a strong uptick in the number of people who are shifting their TV viewing to non-TV devices.

The latest DASH TV Universe Study shows a strong uptick in the number of people who are shifting their TV viewing to non-TV devices.

The logo of Netflix appears on a smartphone.
The logo of Netflix appears on a smartphone. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

More Americans are turning off their TV sets to watch streaming video content on other devices, according to the latest DASH TV Universe Study released this week.

The study reveals six percent of American households watched TV content exclusively on their phones last year, representing an uptick of around 1 million households compared to 2022.

The trend is being driven primarily by younger TV consumers, who are more-accustom to watching content on their phones compared to other devices. Phones also allow a person to watch what they want, unlike a TV set, which typically must be shared with other family members.

“The trend toward TV access exclusively on mobile devices shows no signs of letting up, particularly because younger households drive the trend,” said Paul Donato, the Chief Research Officer at the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), which produces the annual DASH Universe Study.

“Not surprisingly, younger households are behind many of the dynamics changing the shape of TV, as highlighted in the DASH 2023 report,” Donato affirmed.

The ARF is using its latest report to continue its push for a change in how TV audiences are measured. In the past, measurement firms like Nielsen have evaluated TV consumption habits based on the channels and programs watched on TV sets alone. That has changed over the past few years, with Nielsen, Comscore and others expanding their measurement practices and tools to include other devices. But the industry has still not settled on a universal metric to measure TV consumption across different platforms, and the increase in fragmentation is exacerbating the issue.

Proponents, including the ARF, say one way to address this is to convert the traditional basis of measurement of “TV households” into a more-comprehensive unit that considers “TV-addressable households.” In doing so, the metric would expand to include consumption of TV programs on TV sets and non-TV devices alike, including the phones and tablets that younger viewers prefer.

Younger viewers are also more likely to take advantage of the shift from broadcast and cable to subscription-based streaming, with the DASH report showing 62 percent of head-of-household (HOH) consumers between the ages of 18 and 54 years old having three or more paid streaming services. Just 10 percent of HOH consumers within that demographic reported not having a subscription-based streaming service in 2023, compared to 28 percent of HOH who are aged 55 or older.

When older households are buying subscription-based streaming services, they’re typically including at least one cable-like product in the mix. Those over the age of 55 were more likely to purchase a virtual multi-video platform distributor, or vMVPD, like Fubo, DirecTV Stream or Sling TV compared with younger households. That trend aligns with demographic data reported by some measurement firms that reveal older Americans are more likely to watch broadcast and cable TV compared to younger generations of TV consumers.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.

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