TV briefs: Streaming now 28% of viewing; ESPN tightens belt

Credit: Rodney Ho

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Credit: Rodney Ho

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Friday, July 10, 2015

As TV viewing shifts inexorably toward streaming, the numbers now are proving how much people are using Wi-Fi signals to watch TV instead of cable or satellite.

According to research company GfK MRI, about 28 percent of all TV viewing is now done via streaming. About 16 percent is spent watching TV content on a laptop, tablet or smartphone.Another 9 percent is streaming via a connected TV. Those watching TV on game consoles covers another 3 percent.

The company hasn't done linear studies over time so we don't have a comparable data point from, say, five years ago. But there's no doubt the streaming numbers have exploded since Wi-Fi access and smartphones became ubiquitous the past few years and services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime have become commonplace. Even Dish is offering a limited digital subscription with Sling to provide a cable-like service to digital-only customers. And individual cable networks are jumping aboard - HBO, Showtime, CBS - to name a few. And even as a customer of Xfinity myself, I can view quite a bit of my TV programs on my iPhone or laptop on demand.

Amazingly, 41 percent of those in the study have maintained a cable subscription and have three or more subscription services.

Christie Kawada, executive VP of Product Management and Innovation at GfK MRI told Broadcasting & Cable:  "We live in a new type of video ecosystem, where online video and live TV co-exist amongst traditional cable offerings, apps, and digital streaming of live TV. These platforms are creating added demand for one another; viewers are checking out more - and different -- content, and ultimately watching more."

Live viewing is down to 39 percent of all TV watching. Since VCRs in the early 1980s, people have been able to watch TV on their own time. But the trend has steadily increased first with DVRs, then with more on-demand options.

At the same time, the cable subscription model is steadily losing its stranglehold on the public. The Wall Street Journal wrote a story noting that ESPN has lost more than 7 million subscribers over the past four years and has had to trim costs. More alarmingly, 3.2 million of those subscribers have disappeared in just the past year.

The story provides a humbling chart that shows Atlanta-based the Weather Channel having lost the most subscribers since 2011: more than 10 million, down to 89.7 million. ESPN has fallen to 92.9 million from more than 100 million at its peak.

Atlanta's TNT, HLN and TBS are all down about 6 percent over four years, each losing about six million subscribers. CNN has lost about 5 percent, or five million viewers.  They are still each carried in more than 95 million households.