A new study shows that popular on-line streaming service Netflix now has as many subscribers as cable television. First making major inroads into American households in the 1980s, cable TV has been the predominant source of entertainment and news media for the better part of a generation. Improvements to existing technologies, as well as the development of specialty channels aimed at certain genres, gave cable TV an advantage that the smaller broadcast stations utilizing UHF bands could not match. In time the cable-only networks began to develop their own unique programming, allowing for the creation of pay-TV stations such as HBO and Showtime.
A similar evolution occurred within the past decade, as on-line streaming services began to cut into cable television's dominant hold on the digital entertainment landscape. Services such as Netflix made it possible for patient viewers to watch all of their favorite programs at their own convenience, without having to pay hefty fees for general service packages filled with content they would never watch. Netflix also began producing its own unique programming, finding critical acclaim with series such as Stranger Things and Orange Is The New Black. Still, cable television has remained on top, despite more and more young people "cutting the cable."
According to a new report published today by the auditing firm of PricewaterhouseCooper, the tide has turned in this digital divide. Their findings determined that the number of Americans who are subscribed to Netflix now equals the number of Americans who subscribe to cable television.
The study, posted at PwC.com, was based on a survey of 2,000 average consumers, ages 18 to 59, with annual household incomes above $40,000. They found that 73% of those surveyed subscribe to some form of Pay-TV service. This is down from 79% - the number of consumers who subscribed to cable television during a survey in late 2015. By contrast, 73% of those surveyed have a Netflix subscription.
The survey further showed that these numbers are consistent across all age ranges. Surprisingly, it was consumers ages 25-39 who were the most likely to use new media to watch a television program, with 90% of those surveyed within that age range having used The Internet, in some form, to watch TV, compared to 87% of consumers ages 18-24. Another surprising figure is that the greatest growth in Internet television viewing numbers lay with consumers ages 50-59, who showed a stunning 15% increase in on-line television viewership since 2015.
"Consumers are getting savvy and resourceful," notes PwC. "They are dealing with the overwhelming nature of streaming in ways that ease their own burden, but are bad for business." The survey also showed that 81% of consumers share their streaming service passwords with friends and family and that while 55% of them will subscribe to the trial version of a digital service, only 33% will keep it afterward.