This Just In: Americans Love DVRs and Streaming Movies Online

Netflix red Envelope - H 2011
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Netflix red Envelope - H 2011

A study due Wednesday indicates that watching a movie via a subscription service like Netflix is rapidly gaining on DVD and Blu-ray as the preferred method of at-home viewing.

As Hollywood digests news that domestic box-office revenue was 3.4 percent lower in 2011 than it was the year before, another number to chew on is that 14 percent of Americans now say that their favorite way to watch a movie at home is to stream it over the Internet via a subscription service. That’s up from just 4 percent two years earlier.

The data is among the myriad numbers in Deloitte’s State of the Media Democracy survey, results of which are due today.

Netflix should obviously celebrate the results, since it’s the company most people think of when they hear “subscription streaming service.” While that category is rising, streaming or downloading movies for free online has stagnated, with just 6 percent calling it their favorite method, the same as a year earlier and a year before that.

According to the survey, 42 percent of Americans ages 14-75 have streamed a movie online, up from 28 percent in 2009.

Streaming a movie on a tablet also showed up for the first time (it’s the sixth year Deloitte has conducted the survey). One percent of consumers called streaming to a tablet their favorite way to view a movie (not counting at a movie theater), and 13 percent of Americans owned a tablet in 2011 (mostly iPads), up from 5 percent in 2010.

Watching a movie on a TV screen via DVD or Blu-ray disc is still one of the preferred methods, though it’s down two percentage points to 35 percent.

The ease of streaming might be leading to larger audiences for movies, even if folks aren’t seeing them at theaters or buying them on DVD. Deloitte said that only 19 percent of American consumers did not watch a movie at home in the past six months, down from 37 percent who saw zero movies in the same half-year frame in 2007.

Digital technology is also changing the way folks watch TV shows, of course, and one takeaway from Deloitte’s survey is that people love their DVRs, and cable-satellite-telco providers would be wise to push the gadgetry to their customers before they cut the cord entirely.

Even though just 44 percent of American consumers have a DVR, it has already become the No. 2 preferred way to watch television. No. 1 is still “live on my home TV system,” though the category is down from 74 percent in 2010 to 71 percent in 2011.

On-demand is third, viewing free from an online service (like Hulu) is fourth, viewing from a show’s Internet site is fifth and watching on DVD or Blu-ray is the sixth most preferred way to watch a favorite TV show.

Deloitte says that 9 percent of Americans have already cut their pay-TV cords (metaphorically speaking) while 11 percent “are considering doing so because they can watch almost all of their favorite shows online,” according to a synopsis of the 25-page report.