Binging is big, small screens’ share rising, original content scores

Binging is big in the United States; it has been since Netflix first made it possible to watch a season of House of Cards over a long weekend, and that has made it critical for competing – or complimentary – services to assure that their own content is easily discoverable and easily accessible.

A new study asserts that binging is continuing to grow, with 73% of Americans — across demographics – participating, a 3% rise since 2015. As you’d expect, Millennials are the biggest bingers, averaging six episodes and five hours per viewing.

In fact, the report, Deloitte’s 11th Digital Democracy Survey, says close to 90% of Millennials and Gen Edge have binge watched video content, with nearly 40% of Millennial and Gen Edge viewers doing so weekly.

For more viewers, TV is 2nd choice

Although Boomers (80%) still watch streamed movies and TV shows on traditional TV sets, more than on other devices like tablets, smartphones and computers, younger generations increasingly are moving toward other screens.

Gen X, for example, watches some 40% of streaming content on mobile devices and computers, while Millennials and Gen Edge viewers spend more than half of their viewing time on screens other than televisions.

That move toward smaller screens has been trending for several years. As we noted in Ooyala’s Q4 2016 Global Video Index overall views on mobile devices has been above 50% for the past several quarters and reached a high of 54% in Q4.

Interestingly, in EMEA, mobile views topped 60%, the highest in any region.

The move away from consuming content on traditional TV sets means that content providers need to make sure user experience – from initial discovery to viewing to recommendation – is as seamless on smartphone and tablets as it is on connected TVs and computers.

It’s critical that the experience be streamlined now, as consumers are actually in the process of making the switch to smaller screens across virtually all demographics from Gen X and younger. And, make no mistake, that’s a trend that Boomers – who currently only watch 20% of their content away from television screens – will also follow, just more slowly. The fact that Gen X watched just 60% of streaming content on TVs is an early indicator of that eventual change.

Bottom line: If you’ve got original content, flaunt it

The Deloitte study isn’t alone in pointing toward a strong push into streaming by American consumers.

Earlier this week, 451 Research released its own study looking at U.S. consumer habits, its Voice of the Connected User Landscape survey.

That survey showed that consumers are increasing the number of services they subscribe to as they work to create their own customized bundle of content.

Nearly one in five now subscribe to at least three streaming services and, as I’ve mentioned before, Netflix continues to serve as the “gateway drug” for most multi-service streamers; 451 said 95% of those multi-service users start out with Netflix.

Among all respondents to the survey, 79% are Netflix subscribers and 53% subscribe to Amazon Prime Instant Video, up from 48% a year ago.

The draw? Likely the exclusive original content the two services present.

“Viewing original content has become a much more important factor over the past year in choosing streaming services, and the data shows consumers are simply watching more of it,” said Andy Golub, managing director of 451 Research said.

The survey found 31% of Amazon subscribers and 32% of Netflix subscribers cited the original content as each services’ most important feature (compared to 7% and 20% respectively two years ago).

So, while consumers have become king in the digital video business – demanding, and getting, more premium content on their terms — content remains its most valuable asset.

Niche providers and major studios, now more than ever, need to get their content in front of audiences that prefer streaming on their own terms to watching traditional television.

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn