Has binge-watching the latest Netflix series helped you get through the tedium of Seattle’s lockdown? Or maybe, like me, you’ve found yourself re-watching old episodes of “The Office” or some other show that you’ve already seen a bunch of times.
At least you know you’re not alone.
New market research shows that in the Seattle area, TV-streaming services provided the escapism that we needed during the early days of the pandemic. The number of people watching Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu — the three most popular streaming services — surged during the first half of 2020.
In nearly 1.2 million households in our market area — that’s more than half (53%) the total number of households — folks watched something on Netflix at least once in the past seven days, according to data from market-research giant Nielsen. That represents a 41% jump from 2019, when the number was 823,000 households. Netflix is, of course, the No. 1 TV-streaming service in the U.S.
Nielsen surveyed about 1,800 people in our area from February to August this year, which captured the early days of the pandemic. It also surveyed about 2,000 people in same period in 2019.
The other top TV-streaming services saw similar jumps in viewership. During the pandemic, Amazon Prime Video saw a 50% jump in the number of Seattle-area households that used the service at least once in the past week. And No. 3 Hulu increased the most, surging 53%.
TV-streaming services have taken a big bite out of network television viewership, and a sizable number of households rely solely on streaming. According to Nielsen, more than one out of three households (37%) in the Seattle market have neither cable nor satellite television.
The number of streaming services have proliferated in recent years. These include Disney+, HBO Max, Sling TV, YouTubeTV, CBS All Access, Tubi, and many others. In total, nearly 1.4 million households (62% of the total) in the Seattle market watched at least one subscription TV-streaming services during the past seven days, according to Nielsen.
How are these households different from the roughly 840,000 in our market in which nobody has watched a streaming service in the past seven days?
For starters, they are more affluent. Households in the Seattle market that have watched a streaming service have a median income of close to $88,000, compared to about $57,000 for those that have not. The median net worth of a streaming household is also 32% higher than that of a non-streaming household.
That isn’t too surprising. These services aren’t free, of course. For a household struggling to make ends meet, as many have been during the lockdown, a TV-streaming subscription might be an unnecessary expense. A basic Netflix subscription plan is $8.99 per month, and a premium plan is $17.99 per month.
People who use streaming services also tend to be younger, which is the case with a lot of newer technologies. The average age of an adult in a Seattle TV-streaming household is around 44, compared with a median age of 57 in a non-streaming household.
People who use TV-streaming services in the Seattle market are also much more likely to have a college degree, to be married and to have children under age 18 in the household.
As people are now starting to get vaccinated against COVID-19, we’re all looking forward to the end of these painful lockdowns. I’d like to think, when that happens, it will be the end my evenings as a couch potato, streaming shows I would never normally watch if I weren’t stuck at home.
But who knows? According a national Morning Consult survey conducted in April, more half of U.S. adults who had recently signed up for TV-streaming services predicted that they would watch the same amount or more of them once life returns to normal.
A note on the Nielsen data: The Seattle market area is larger than the Seattle metro area (which is King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties), and basically includes the entire Puget Sound region.