- April 29, 2021

The Rise of Streaming Services and the Role of 3rd Party Measurement

Kumar Rao
Kumar Rao
Vice President, Media Analytics
James Muldrow
James Muldrow
Vice President, Product Management

To state the obvious, 2020 has been like no other year. With most Americans confined to their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic creating a “captive” audience, the demand for streaming content from home skyrocketed, leading to abrupt changes in viewership trends and audience profile, not to mention wider industry implications. In the worst of times, it was the best of times—for streaming.

To capitalize on this abundance of at-home audiences, many streaming services have made strong pushes to acquire subscribers in the last year – from Disney's Disney+, AT&T's HBO Max, Comcast NBC Universal's Peacock and more in-the-works. From major advertising spending for building awareness to creative pricing bundles, these services are attempting to differentiate themselves in their content and value to consumers. Comscore Ad Metrix Media Spend reporting indicates that Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon, accounted for $500MM in advertising spend in 2020 to promote their streaming platforms 1.

In this article, we present a few interesting streaming services viewership insights from Comscore’s Total Home Panel, our flagship single-source measurement solution for providing granular insights into Over-the-Top (OTT), connected TV (CTV) and Internet of Things (IoT) device usage and content consumption.

Top Streaming Services by Groups viewed on OTT Devices in the U.S.

Popular Streaming Services by Groups

The table above shows streaming services viewership for January 2021 from Comscore’s Total Home Panel, which captures deterministic household-level viewership for OTT devices (e.g. Roku, Apple TVs, Smart TV, and OTT streaming on game consoles) across the listed streaming services. The share percentages are ranked within each service group for January 2021 and December 2020 and the change in ranking is presented in this table. Among the top five OTT streaming services, Netflix is ranked first and garnered a share of 35.1% of viewership in terms of total hours measured across these five services in January 2021. The ranking of the OTT streaming services remained unchanged relative to December 2020. Netflix has been a dominant player amongst streaming services for years, but new services like Disney+ are still able to gain momentum compared to established services.

Among network-based streaming services, ESPN is ranked first and garnered a viewership share of 47.9%, with a sizable lead over other services in this group. Its ranking amongst network OTT services remained unchanged relative to December 2020. Among vMVPD OTT apps, Spectrum is ranked first and garnered a viewership share of 31%, followed by Sling and Pluto.TV, Philo and Xfinity Stream. The ranking of these apps in January remained unaffected relative to previous month.

Day of the week affects streaming viewership

While recognizing that the monthly share estimate in the table has a daily variance, we analyzed how these streaming services perform throughout the referenced month and examined the share of each service by day of the week. Figure 2 below provides additional insights of day-over-day viewing phenomenon for these OTT apps and shows January 2021 viewing duration share for each group by day of the week. The total duration estimates across the services from the previous table are first segmented by day and then a share of viewing is computed. The green and red icons represent value greater or lesser than the average estimate for the app across all seven days.

Changes in Viewership for OTT Streaming Services by Groups

Among OTT Streaming services, our first observation is on Netflix’s viewing share throughout the week. Netflix’s viewing share in January 2021 on Monday among Top Five OTT Streaming services was 35.8%, higher than its average share across all seven days. There is a decline in its share during mid-week (Tuesday-Thursday) followed by an increase over the weekend. YouTube, on the other hand, appears to be performing well during the mid-week. Amazon Video is a strong weekend performer. During the weekend when consumers have more free time, Amazon Video and Disney+ are the only two streaming services with a share of viewership on both Saturday and Sunday that is higher than their respective average share across all seven days.

Among Network OTT apps, ESPN has higher than its average viewership share on Sunday and Monday, with muted viewing during weekdays. PBS, on the other hand, exhibits the opposite trend – strong performance during the weekdays from Monday to Wednesday. PBS Kids Video and NBC Sports are performing well on weekdays (Tuesday-Thursday & Wednesday-Friday respectively). However, NBC lack a discernible weekday/weekend trend.

Lastly, among vMVPD OTT apps, Xfinity Stream has higher viewership share on weekend (Saturday-Sunday) and Monday. Sling’s viewing share is highest on Saturday. In general, the variance in viewing share across all these apps could be driven by a multitude of intrinsic (Panel sample size variations) or extrinsic (cannibalizing effect of competitor’s release of new content such as movie premiers) factors. Investigation of these factors are outside the scope of this article.

Types of OTT Services based on Viewership Patterns

In the prior sections, we looked at viewership shares of fifteen apps within three pre-determined groups. In this section, we analyze the apps together without groupings since these apps are all contending with one another to make it into people’s entertainment mix on any given day. People have limited screen time on any given period of time and lower viewership of one OTT service would generally mean higher viewership on some other service.

Utilizing data from all fifteen apps, we performed an unsupervised cluster analysis (p=0.01), as a function of January 2021 viewership hours, to identify naturally occurring sub-groups in the data. The sub-groups referred to three distinct types of OTT services: Fully-Established, Somewhat-Established, and Emerging. Figure 3 shows the cluster-analysis results in a scatter-plot of total viewership hours between January 2021 and December 2020 months. Netflix and YouTube are part of the Fully-Established cluster with highest viewership, followed by Amazon Video and Hulu, which are part of Somewhat-Established cluster. The remaining eleven OTT service apps are part of the Emerging cluster. It is evident in the chart that each of these three clusters of OTT services are nicely separated from one another, thus highlighting the viewership popularity gap that exists for Emerging apps to catch up with Somewhat-Established apps and the same for Somewhat-Established apps with Fully-Established apps. All-in-all, the streaming landscape is constantly evolving and that may be indicative of the effectiveness of streaming services’ promotional and distribution-related efforts to attract more eyeballs.

Types of OTT Services Based on Viewership Patterns

As streaming services continue to expand and test out new strategies for acquiring viewers, Comscore, as an independent third-party measurement gold standard, provides advertisers with the confidence and accountability to fully commit to spending in a medium across the multitude of available digital touchpoints. This allows media operators to monetize their inventory to the maximum extent possible2.

Learn more about how Comscore can help you make business decisions with confidence.

1 Comscore Ad Metrix Media Spend, January 2020 – December 2020 Total Spend (offline + online) for [a1] Netflix, Inc., [P1] Disney+, [a2] Hulu LLC, [P1] YouTube, and [P1] Amazon Prime, U.S.

2 Chasin, J. (2015). The Importance Of Third-Party Measurement. The Importance Of Third-Party Measurement. https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/251231/the-importance-of-third-party-measurement.html

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