Cable Tops Broadcast as Top TV Destination: 3 Key Takeaways from Recent Nielsen Report

07.08.2021 Sara Brasfield2 min

To keep up with evolving TV viewing habits—and to more accurately measure TV consumption across cable, streaming and other viewing channels—Nielsen has expanded its measurement and reporting strategies through the launch of its new TV and streaming report, The Gauge.

This simple data visualization tool offers a more comprehensive approach to understanding consumer viewing trends across the TV landscape. For local businesses looking for advertising opportunities across cable TV, over-the-top (OTT) streaming, on-demand content and other video experiences, this information can be invaluable in helping you understand where to connect with your audience—and where to maximize the value of your advertising strategy.

In the latest installment of Nielsen’s new report, cable TV continues to maintain its foothold over broadcast TV and streaming as the most popular way to consume TV content. But the data also identifies some interesting trends that may tell us where the future of TV advertising is headed—including how cable TV and streaming might co-exist as consumers increase their adoption of both.

1. Cable TV Still Beats Streaming In Overall TV Usage

Despite the predictions that increased video streaming would convince consumers to abandon cable TV, and despite a dramatic increase in streaming service competition, cable TV subscriptions have continued to remain steady.

Within the traditional TV market, cable continues to dominate broadcast, claiming 61 percent of that traditional market share. Even when adding in streaming and other forms of competition, cable TV leads the pack by claiming 39 percent of total TV usage.

While the overall cable numbers are strong, context is everything—and a nuanced view of these numbers does make clear that cable’s continued dominance is not a foregone conclusion. For example, the traditional cable TV audience skews older than streaming and other services. While this insight can offer value to local businesses aiming to target older consumers through cable TV advertising, it also demonstrates the future growth potential of streaming services.

2. Make No Mistake: Streaming is Here to Stay

Surprised by cable’s market lead over streaming? You shouldn’t be. While cable may rule the day in terms of its total audience, streaming’s future growth opportunity hasn’t gone anywhere.

Even as the streaming market has matured, streaming’s overall market share has grown at a pace of about six percent per year, on average. At that rate, cable TV’s market share is likely to be trimmed down over time—and the continued growth of streaming suggests that it’s only a matter of time before streaming takes the crown as the leading platform for TV viewing experiences.

Since Nielsen now plans to release its new report numbers every month, industry experts will be able to closely track the ongoing market movement between cable TV, streaming and other TV options. For local advertisers looking to build ad campaigns to reach today’s audience, the present numbers are what matter most—and those numbers all point to cable as the TV advertising option offering the largest audience of all. Plus, when you run your TV ad campaigns through a provider offering streaming services like TV Everywhere, you can easily harness the power of traditional TV ads while complementing those campaigns with ad-supported streaming and VOD campaigns.

3. Live TV Streaming May Understate Cable’s Popularity

If you look closely at the numbers coming out of the new Nielsen report, you can identify certain data points that may offer some wiggle room when it comes to interpreting these TV data insights—especially when it comes to linear TV networks streamed live on over-the-top services.

YouTube and Hulu, for example, each offer live TV service packages that provide customers with access to live TV networks in packages similar to traditional cable TV packages. Since these live-streamed experiences are counted as streaming rather than cable programming, Nielsen’s report likely underestimates the popularity of traditional cable TV experiences among today’s viewers.

Regardless of whether your business’s target audience is best accessed through cable TV, streaming or VOD viewing experiences, you can deliver ads to that customer base by working with a digital ad partner that offers solutions across all three channels.

Cox Media can help you develop, build and launch TV campaigns regardless of where your audience is watching. Contact us today to get started.

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is the Content Marketing Manager for Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than seven years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the (now virtual!) office, Sara loves spending time running, reading and supporting her favorite teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

View All of Sara Brasfield's Blog Posts

Connect with a Marketing Expert

Connect With Your Local Marketing Expert

You know your business. We know advertising. Together, we can bring your business to more people. Contact a member of our team today. We’d love to help you grow.