Overall TV usage rose 8% in January compared with December, an uptick driven by a boom in streaming and viewer interest in a gripping series of NFL playoff games.
The stats were delivered today by Nielsen in its monthly snapshot of viewing, The Gauge.
While January is annually a peak time for all viewing, this year outdid January 2021. TV usage hit its highest point since May 2020, when most of the country was still hunkering down amid the earliest phase of the coronavirus pandemic, Nielsen said.
Streaming had a month-to-month increase of 12%, and gained a percentage point in share of viewing, reaching almost 29%, its highest share ever. The first week of January became the No. 1 streaming week since Nielsen began tracking the category in mid-2020, with 197.6 billion viewing minutes eclipsing the total for Christmas week in 2021. Streaming averaged 180 billion minutes on a weekly basis, another record. Notable new titles in early January included Don’t Look Up and Cobra Kai on Netflix and Encanto and The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+.
Brian Fuhrer, SVP, Product Strategy at Nielsen noted that there “weren’t a lot of share shifts” among major streaming players. The “other” category, though, gained about a half-point in overall share of streaming, reaching a leading 9.4%. Netflix, YouTube and Hulu held onto the next three spots. In a video accompanying the Gauge data, Brian Fuhrer, SVP, Product Strategy at Nielsen, said the rise in “other” streaming indicates that newer entrants like HBO Max, Peacock and Paramount+ are “gaining traction and gaining usage.” Their numbers will be incorporated in “future editions of The Gauge,” Fuhrer added, joining Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+ and Hulu.
Broadcast viewing gained 9% versus December, driven by the NFL and the return of drama series after the holidays. A spate of tightly contested playoff games pushed NFL viewership to multi-year highs, and the drama category registered a 22% jump over December. In a video analysis accompanying the Gauge data, Fuhrer said sports and drama combined to account for about half of all broadcast viewing.
The AFC and NFC championship games at the end of January together racked up 18.6 billion viewing minutes. Fuhrer noted that single-day tally was more than the full-year viewership in the U.S. for the most-watched streaming series of 2021, Lucifer.
While cable viewing overall ticked up 3%, the cable category lost 1.7 percentage points to hit 35.6% share of TV viewing, with Nielsen attributing the drop primarily to the seasonal shift away from holiday movies. Cable networks like Hallmark and Freeform have put increasing emphasis on wall-to-wall Christmas programming in December, with about one-quarter of viewing attributed to the category in that month.
Numbers for The Gauge come from two separately weighted panels. Streaming data is derived from a subset of TV households with Streaming Meters within Nielsen’s national TV panel. Linear TV broadcast and cable figures, as well as total usage numbers, are based on Nielsen’s overall TV panel.
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