Does Netflix cut down on other TV watching?


The Netflix logo is is shown on an ipad in Encinitas, California in this April 19, 2013 file photo. (MIKE BLAKE/REUTERS)
July 30, 2013

Netflix has been aggressive about its vision of competing with major networks by releasing its own original programming. But before we get too invested in a “digital killed the video star” narrative, it’s worth looking at a study from TiVo’s Research and Analytics team that adds to the growing body of research on viewing across screens.

The study, released Monday, reports that Netflix is not cannibalizing the amount of television watched by people in TiVo households. When it comes to hours of regular programming watched, the study says, there’s no significant difference between those who have a Netflix account and those who don’t. In fact, subscribing to an online video service can actually increase the frequency with which you flip on the television set.

These numbers generally fit in well with Nielsen’s latest report on cross-platform video viewing, which found that Americans are actually watching slightly more television on an average day than they were a year ago — 4 hours 39 minutes, on average, compared with 4 hours 38 minutes last year. The Nielsen study indicated that streaming video is likely to add to the time one spends watching traditional television rather than supplanting it.

It makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. As Nielsen’s study notes, the rise of digital and mobile video means that watching video is now a lot more portable, meaning that the two mediums aren’t competing that fiercely for the same time.

And both studies indicate that the households that are ticking up their traditional television viewing numbers are the same ones driving growth in digital and mobile video. The TiVo report looked specifically at how this relationship works, by sharing that households that watched Netflix’s original (and Emmy-nominated) drama “House of Cards,” for example, were more likely to watch more programming on HBO, and more of Showtime’s “Homeland,” as well.

Consumers are also signing onto a lot of types of streaming media, in an effort to get exactly what they want when they want it. The study showed that 57 percent of TiVo households also reported subscribing to Netflix, while half of all TiVo households also subscribe to Amazon Prime and 15 percent subscribe to Hulu Plus.

Eight percent of all those surveyed subscribe to all three.

What will be interesting to watch for is how new technologies that are specifically aimed at the time consumers spend in front of the television — for example, Google’s Chromecast or the entertainment-centered focus of the Xbox One — affect traditional television viewing in the future.

A marathon of YouTube clips may not be an exact substitute for a tightly written drama, but traditional television viewing is still, by far, the most common way of watching video. And that means that it has the most ground to give.

Related stories:

YouTube paid channels officially launch

Yes, Netflix’s ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Arrested Development’ are eligible for Emmy nominations

Dish’s Hopper ad-skipping service doesn’t violate copyrights, court rules

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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