Hub Research: 83% of U.S. Homes Have Enabled Smart-TV or Streaming Media Player

A large majority of homes in the United States (83%) have an “enabled” (internet-connected) smart-TV or streaming media player, according to a new study from Hub Entertainment Research.

The study, “Streaming TV: Built-In vs Plugged-In?,” also found most homes (44%) own both types of devices. At the set level, the study found more than half (57%) of all enabled smart-TVs have a streaming media player, such as a Roku or Fire TV (via a box or stick plugged into a TV set), attached to them.

Smart-TVs and streaming media players are living side-by-side, according to the Hub study. Rather than smart-TVs replacing streaming media players outright, many viewers use smart-TVs and streaming media players as complements to each other.

The study showed that in almost all facets, behaviors are very similar whether using a smart-TV or a streaming media player. Both can act as a gatekeeper between the viewer and content, Hub noted. One way is through the home screen of the device. About half of viewers use the options on the device’s home screen to search for or select content, rather than going directly into apps.

Another viewer influence are the branded buttons often found on remote controls that take users directly to a specific streaming service, Hub noted. Use of these branded buttons is common, according to the study, whether on a smart-TV or a streaming media player. Almost two in five smart-TV users (38%) or streaming media player users (35%) use branded buttons on their remote “all the time” or “often.”

These features give device manufacturers a strong influence in what content is selected for viewing, whether it’s through recommendations or promotional ads on the home screen, or reducing viewing decision to a one-click button, according to Hub.

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“The question of ‘built-in vs plugged-in’ is surprisingly revealed in this study to be ‘it doesn’t really matter.’ Whether people are using a smart TV or a streaming media player, their habits are very similar,” David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “In the short term, both devices are going to co-exist — streaming media players are a long way from being replaced by smart TVs, and can’t be ignored.”

The “Streaming TV: Built-In vs Plugged-In?” report was based on a survey conducted among 2,517 U.S. consumers. Interviews were conducted in August 2022.

Hub: Consumers Embrace Streaming Video Advertising

Consumer migration toward ad-supported VOD and free ad-supported streaming television continues to flourish. New data from Hub Entertainment found a 10% spike in second-quarter (ended June 30) survey respondents using ad-supported streaming video platforms such as Pluto TV, the free version of Peacock, the Roku Channel, Tubi and Freevee, among others, since the end of 2021.

The May survey included responses from 3,004 U.S. consumers who watch at least one hour of TV per week.

The report found that 55% of respondents said they use at least one free ad-supported TV streaming service. Another 42% subscribe to the ad-supported tier of a streaming on-demand subscription service such as Hulu, Discovery+, Paramount+, Peacock or HBO Max. Subscriptions to those ad-supported tiers is up 4% since the end of 2021.

“It turns out the issue consumers had with ad-supported platforms was not the fact that they included ads at all, but how the ads were delivered,” Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

Indeed, the report found that 56% of respondents said they’d rather watch ads and pay $4 to $5 less per month for a streaming service. Preference for less-expensive, ad-supported tiers over more-expensive, ad-free tiers has remained relatively stable over the past year.

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Subscribers to the ad-supported tiers of streaming services are, for the most part, equally likely to feel they get “excellent” or “good” value from the service as those who subscribe to the ad-free versions, according to Hub.

And subscribers to Discovery+ and Paramount+ with ads are actually 5% more likely than ad-free subscribers to feel those services offer excellent or good value.

The sentiment applies to FAST networks as well.

Of the respondents who said they were recent viewers of an ad-supported streaming platform, 69% said they enjoyed the entire experience of watching the show. For those who didn’t see relevant ads, viewing enjoyment was just 48%.

Similarly, streaming video enjoyment was 61% among those who remembered ads for products that seemed to be based on their past purchases. Among those not seeing ads like that, streaming enjoyment was lower 49%.

“With reasonable ad loads, more relevant targeting, and a quid-pro quo agreement (watch ads, pay less), the industry seems finally to have an answer to the question that has dogged it for years: how to get consumers to accept TV advertising,” Fondulas said.

Co-Viewing Apps Attract Younger Viewers

New TV research from Hub found that streaming apps with co-viewing baked in, as well as third-party apps, prove popular with young audiences.

Hub Entertainment Research’s third annual “Evolution of the TV Set” report  found a quarter (23%) of viewers say they have watched via a co-viewing app or service this year, up from 2020 (20%) with 41% of viewers age 16-34 saying they’ve used a co-viewing app, compared with 23% of those age 35-54 and only 3% of those 55 or older.

Amazon Watch Party is the most commonly used co-viewing app (44%). The next most popular apps are two adapted from other uses: Discord, popular among gamers (28%), and Zoom, the web meeting service made ubiquitous by the pandemic (27%).

Those age 35-54 (57%) are more likely to use Amazon Watch Party (AWP) than co-viewers age 16-34 (37%), and men (52%) more likely to use AWP than women (31%).  Young co-viewers age 16-24 are less than half as likely to say they use AWP than adults 35-54 (24% vs. 57%). And one-third (33%) of those 16-24 use Discord, compared with one-quarter (26%) of older viewers age 35-74.

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“Co-viewing apps and services are becoming increasingly important, no doubt driven in part by recent pandemic experiences,” David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “Content distributors and streaming services that help enable this behavior will increase their appeal to young adults overall, and in particular young men. This is an important consideration with the advent of fully or partially ad-supported streaming services and the desirability of these key demos to advertisers.”

Hub’s “Evolution of the TV Set 2021” report is a survey of 2,519 U.S. consumers. Interviews were conducted in late May and early June 2021.