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Nearly half of households with an internet connection subscribe to four or more streaming services

Joe Supan

Jul 21, 2021 — 2 min read

The combination of COVID-19 lockdowns and a slew of new streaming services led to a massive increase in streaming in 2020.

two women watching TV on couch

The number of households who subscribe to four or more streaming services doubled in the past year, according to recently released data from Parks Associates. 

At the end of first quarter of 2021, 46% of U.S. homes with a broadband internet connection subscribed to four or more video streaming services, more than twice the 22% reported at the end of the first quarter of 2020. 

In many ways, that year was a perfect storm for streaming services. Beginning in November 2019, a number of new streaming services hit the market: Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Peacock, Quibi, Discovery Plus and Paramount Plus all launched over an 18-month period. 

That period also coincided with COVID-19 lockdowns. Americans had more time than ever to stream TV, and more services than ever to choose from. According to Nielsen, the time spent streaming TV increased by about 75% during the early months of the lockdown. 

The data from Parks Associates comes from a quarterly survey of 10,000 broadband households on their media consumption. It also revealed that 82% of U.S. homes subscribe to at least one streaming service, compared with 76% at the end of the first quarter of 2020. 

“New services are employing a variety of growth strategies, including external partnerships to expand their reach and market footprint and augmentations to their offerings to grow share and increase retention,” Elizabeth Parks, president of Parks Associates, said in a statement.

That translates to around $47/mo. on streaming services for the average American household, up from $38/mo. in April 2020, according to J.D. Power. But with no contracts or equipment to worry about, it’s easy for consumers to try out a new service for a couple months and ditch it when they’re ready to move on. It remains to be seen whether this boost in streaming is here to stay, or just a byproduct of 2020. 

“When we emerge from this pandemic and people have less time to consume content at home, it will be intriguing to see how regularity of use factors into streamers’ decisions to potentially unsubscribe from some of these services,” MoffettNathanson analysts wrote in their Q4 2020 streaming report.

Cable TV still reigns supreme for now

The early answer to that question seems to be on the side of the streamers. Nielsen recently reported that Americans used their TVs to stream video 26% of the time in May 2021, compared to 20% in 2020 and 14% in 2019. 

But even with Americans subscribing to more streaming services than ever, cable is still the most popular way to watch TV. Americans watched cable on their TVs about 39% of the time in May 2021 — still far ahead of streaming. 

According to Nielsen, Netflix and YouTube were the most popular streaming services, accounting for about 6% of total TV time each. After those, Hulu (3%), Amazon (2%) and Disney Plus (1%) were the most watched services.

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Illustration of a father and daughter in a living room. The father is sitting in an armchair and reading a newspaper, and the daughter is playing with a toy on the floor.
Joe Supan

Written by:

Joe Supan

Senior Writer, Broadband Content

Joe Supan is the senior writer for Allconnect and MyMove. He has helped build the proprietary metrics used on Allconnect’s review pages, utilizing thousands of data points to help readers navigate these comple… Read more

Robin Layton

Edited by:

Robin Layton

Editor, Broadband Content

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