Live Streaming Gains Popularity in U.S. as Shortform Video Viewing Stalls

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People subscribe to an average of 3.1 subscription streaming services, per the Nielsen Video 360 report.

Live streaming is on the rise as more viewers in the U.S. cancel their cable subscriptions, according to a new report from Nielsen. 

As part of its annual Video 360 report, the research firm says 42 percent of the general population has live-streamed content; that's up significantly from just 25 percent in 2017. The content most likely to get people to tune in live are television shows, influencer-led streams and regular-season sporting events.  

The rise of live streaming has surely been helped along by the number of internet-enabled skinny TV bundles that have flooded the market in recent years, luring cable subscribers with low fees and flexible cancellation policies. Dish, DirecTV, PlayStation, Hulu and YouTube all offer versions of a live TV bundle. There are also genre-specific offerings from the likes of FuboTV and Philo. Services like Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch have also placed an emphasis on the importance of the live viewing experience. 

Also fueling the rise of live streaming is the overall growth of the streaming video ecosystem. As of this year, 80 percent of the general population now reports using an app or streaming service to watch video online during a typical week. 

Two affinity groups that over index on streaming video are superhero franchise fans and family movie franchise fans. Per Nielsen, 89 percent of the superhero group stream video content weekly, while 94 percent of the family movie group does. 

"Franchise fans are far more active video consumers than the average population," reads the report, which was authored by Lauren Kobel, director of Nielsen's entertainment, home entertainment and film group. 

This year, 66 percent of the general population reported paying for a subscription video service, up from 63 percent in 2017. On average, people subscribe to 3.1 subscription streaming services, according to Nielsen. Family movie franchise fans subscribe to an average of 4.4 services, and superhero franchise fans subscribe to an average of 3.4 services. This indicates that these affinity groups are more likely to add more niche offerings in addition to broader services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. 

One casualty of the rise in television streaming is the shortform video space. In the past three months, 55 percent of the general population has watched a shortform video. That's up just one percentage point from last year. 

Notably, the purchase of physical video has not declined amid the increase in video streaming. Fifty-one percent of the general population has purchased a physical video in the last year, up from 48 percent in 2017. That still eclipses the purchase of digital downloads, which 42 percent of the population reported having done this year, up just slightly from 41 percent last year. It's no surprise that fans of family movie franchises are especially high purchasers of titles. Many told Nielsen that the pursuit of a specific title is more important than the format available. Per the report, "A growing factor in acquiring long-form video is the desire to build a collection, in either physical or digital format." 

Data for the study was collected between April 15-23 among 2,000 consumers reflective of the population of the U.S.