Streaming Is the Future of TV, but the Abundance of Platform Choice Is Overwhelming for Viewers

The video streaming industry continues to hit new milestones, as CODA recently became the first film produced by a streaming service to win an Academy Award for Best Picture—a significant shift from how streaming began: an online alternative to DVD rentals by mail.

While CODA has been streaming on Apple TV+ since last August, its availability could have been easily overlooked (at least until recently) simply because of how much other content is out there—and more heavily promoted. As detailed in Nielsen’s State of Play report, audiences have more than 817,000 unique program titles1 to choose from across traditional TV and streaming services. That’s up 18% from just over 646,000 at the end of 2019.

While many titles form the bedrock of the traditional TV universe, an increasing amount is being developed for streaming services, and audiences are eating it up. In an average week, U.S. audiences watch almost 170 billion minutes of video content. That’s up from just over 143 billion a year ago2.

In addition to the validation of increased time spent streaming, Americans express overwhelming adoration for their streaming services. Notably, Nielsen’s recent streaming media consumer survey found that only one in 20 respondents have negative feelings about their streaming experiences. Additionally, 93% say they plan to either increase their paid streaming services or make no change to their existing plans over the next year.

In step with shifting consumer behaviors, media companies are increasingly adopting streaming-first mindsets, and the number of available services continues to rise to meet audience demand. Amid the growing number of platforms, which some estimate exceeds 200, consumers are feeling overwhelmed. In fact, 46% of viewers say it’s harder to find the content they want to watch because there are too many services available.

Once audiences log into a service, making it easy for them to find content they’ll love is key. After all, U.S. audiences spend an average of 4 hours and 49 minutes3 with TV (live, time-shifted, CTV) every day, and platforms want that time spent engaging—not scrolling. Applying hyper-detailed video descriptors to content catalogs can help here, as they crystalize the storylines and context that make up the essence of a show or movie. This data enables nuanced discovery paths and offers fresh and relevant program recommendations that are aligned with a viewer’s individual tastes and viewing history.

In addition to recommendations and suggestions, streaming platforms have the benefit of being visual, and discovery can be visual as well.  In the streaming realm, the video carousel is the storefront. Visitors aren’t logging in to read. They’re logging in for visual experiences. And that’s where personalized images can enhance a platform’s visual merchandising. When a platform uses different images to appeal to different viewers, the video carousel quickly becomes a personalized storefront that elevates the customer experience.

Today’s streaming landscape is a treasure trove of options for consumers, and the volume of content continues to rise. The audience will steer the future of the streaming landscape, and the media industry can help consumers in their media journeys by leveraging data to ensure they never get lost along the way.

For additional insights, download our State of Play report.