Streamers, Binge Watchers, and Live TV Junkies -- The Habits of Today’s TV Watchers

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Posted Sep 18, 2018

The Fall TV season is upon us. This Is Us viewers don’t have long to wait to find out if we are traveling backward or forward in time in the lives of the Pearsons. Sons of Anarchy fans have FX’s new series Mayans M.C. to look forward to. New NBC series Manifest looks to appeal to Lost fanatics. Netflix is premiering Maniac and Good Cop both full of star power. TV viewers have a lot to choose from when it comes to what fills their screens and the type of service they will use to watch.

Last night’s Primetime Emmy Awards were dominated by Netflix and HBO, leaving many to wonder where this leaves broadcast TV. We surveyed 1,000 avid TV watchers to find out about their viewing habits, preferred streaming services, reasons they watch certain TV shows live, and their opinions on all things Emmy.

Photo courtesy of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

  • 66% of respondents watch over 16 hours of TV each week including 35% who watch 22+ hours per week. Not surprisingly, viewers ages 18-44 were much more likely to watch 22 hours or more.
  • 55% of respondents subscribe to cable TV, 50% subscribe to streaming TV services, and 22% subscribe to satellite TV. Men in general and viewers ages 65+ were more likely to subscribe to cable TV, while viewers ages 18-54 were more likely to subscribe to streaming services.
  • Amongst the streaming TV subscribers, Netflix is by far the most popular service with 84% subscribing. Women and viewers ages 25-34 were more likely to be Netflix subscribers.

Live TV -- When You Need to Know Now

When asked about their viewing preferences for TV shows airing on network and cable TV, a majority of respondents preferred to watch the shows on the day they air -- 62% for network TV and 59% for cable TV. Men were more likely than women to watch both cable and network TV shows the day they air. 52% of respondents said they watch live network TV (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, etc.) daily. With so many opportunities to watch TV shows on a date after they air live, we were curious to find out what it was that makes some shows worthy of watching live. Reasons for watching live TV included:

  • Series premiere or season finale
  • I don’t want to wait
  • If it is a live event like sports or a singing competition
  • A very important episode that everyone will be talking about
  • Want to be able to discuss with friends/co-workers the next day
  • To avoid spoilers on social media


With the rise in availability and popularity of streaming services came the cultural phenomenon of binge watching -- the practice of watching multiple episodes of a TV series in a single sitting. Amongst our respondents, 86% have binge watched a TV series at least once. Not a surprising finding since our respondents consider themselves avid TV watchers. Looking at the demographics, women were more likely than men to have binge watched many times.

Shows deemed bingeworthy by our respondents included a mix of network, cable, and streaming TV series:

  • Big Bang Theory
  • Breaking Bad
  • Dexter
  • Game of Thrones
  • Hell’s Kitchen
  • Orange Is the New Black
  • Pretty Little Liars
  • Riverdale
  • Stranger Things
  • X-Files

Does Anyone Still Watch Award Shows?

55% of our respondents said they don’t watch any award shows. Of those who do watch, the Academy Awards was the most popular, watched by 30% followed by the Grammys watched by 27%, and the Emmys watched by 23%. Age had the most effect on the award show viewing choices of our respondents, with older viewers ages 55-64 being more likely to watch the Academy Awards and younger viewers age 25-34 more likely to watch the MTV Video Awards. The most popular awards show feature was “seeing who wins” followed closely by “the hosts”. When asked if they plan to watch the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards -- 26% said they will watch the show live and 9% said they will record it to watch at a later date. Among those who plan to watch the Emmys, by a large margin, the most popular Emmy-related activity was watching the pre-awards red carpet shows, chosen by 50%. 9% of Emmy viewers plan to download a copy of the ballot and make their own picks ahead of time, while just 6% said they were hosting a viewing party for their friends.

What Rhymes with Host? Why Che and Jost, Of Course

Award show hosts can make or break the broadcast. The monologues and segues are often just as memorable as the acceptance speeches. In recent years, the Emmys have traditionally been hosted by Late Night Show hosts and this year is no exception with Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che and Colin Jost getting the nod. Even among huge TV fans such as our respondents, only 16% knew who this years hosts were, while 68% said they had no idea.

He Got the EGOT

Winning an Emmy for producing the best variety special at the Creative Arts Emmys this past week, John Legend joined the elite ranks of the EGOT (Emmy Grammy Oscar Tony) winners. Only 15 performers can say they have achieved this incredible milestone in their careers, see the full list here. Have you ever heard of this acronym? If not, you are not alone. Just 25% of our respondents said they not only had heard of the term but they knew what it meant and 11% had heard of it but didn’t know what it meant. The majority (55%) said they had never heard of it and were not interested.

The Takeaway

Overall, here is what we found - avid TV watchers subscribe to multiple TV platforms, binge watching is still a popular pastime, and live TV is very much still alive and kicking. It doesn’t matter if viewers subscribe to multiple streaming services or have a DVR, they still want to see certain shows on the day they air. This doesn’t just apply to one-time live events like sporting events or competition shows; it also applies to particular cable and network TV series. The instant gratification and being “in the know” are important to these heavy TV watchers. There was one category of live TV that we did find was of less interest to our respondents -- awards shows. This year in an attempt to improve ratings, the Emmys aired on Monday night instead of the traditional Sunday, it remains to be seen whether this increased viewership. SPOILER ALERT if you recorded the show to watch later. No, we won’t reveal the winners (we will leave that to social media) but there was a surprise marriage proposal and she said “yes”.

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