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For first time ever, broadcast and cable TV viewing is under 50% in the US

Streaming beating cable is no surprise, but that doesn't make this milestone any less significant.

Published onAugust 15, 2023

Roku vs Chromecast 19
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • Broadcast and cable viewership in the US is now below 50%.
  • To no one’s surprise, streaming has taken over as the dominant way Americans view content.
  • Judging by how fast these numbers have shifted, linear television is not long for this world.

The chances are high that most people you know in the US don’t have a cable TV subscription anymore. These days, more and more folks are turning to streaming services to get the content they want. This is not really news to anyone, but today’s milestone report on linear television consumption in the US is still pretty significant.

According to Nielsen’s July 2023 report (via TechCrunch), the combined consumption of broadcast and cable television in the United States just dropped below 50%. This is the first time this has happened. Combined, these linear TV solutions accounted for 49.6% of the total.

Meanwhile, streaming accounts for 38.7% of the total, while the mysterious “other” category fills out the rest. Check out the chart below:

As interesting as this chart is in itself, it pales compared to longer-term numbers. In June 2021, linear TV — that is, the combo of broadcast and cable viewing — accounted for 63.6% of the pie. That’s a drop of 14 percentage points in just two years. If these trends continue, it’s likely linear TV will be a significant minority in just a few years.

But what if streaming becomes the new broadcast/cable replacement?

Today’s news is great for streaming media companies, but they should probably hold off on celebrations. Despite streaming’s incredible rise over the past decade, the industry is slowly gaining the same problems of linear TV — the problems that caused consumers to abandon cable in the first place. The chart above already shows the issue at hand. Just look at all those streaming services!

A recent report from Financial Times further illustrates the problem. Today, for a consumer to subscribe to the top streaming services, they would need to spend about $87 each month. This number is higher than the average cable subscription, which is around $83 each month.

It’s only a matter of time before consumers start abandoning streaming services for the same reasons they’re leaving linear TV. It’s simply too expensive. What they’ll abandon streaming for is the question. Piracy? Ad-supported free streaming? A mixture of the two combined with subscribing to only the most essential services? Whatever the solution, something will need to give soon.

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