A Shift In Consumer Viewing Habits

Digital Landscape

Over the past several  years, OTT streaming has shifted the scope of the video broadcasting industry. Consumers have increasingly started to stray away from the traditional cable model, simply due to the benefits offered by over-the-top streaming.  These benefits have driven an enormous increase in OTT’s popularity. In the US in 2017, the four largest OTT applications accounted for 79% of overall OTT viewing hours.  Netflix accounted for 40% of total consumer OTT viewing hours, YouTube for 18%, Hulu for 14%, and Amazon Video for 7%.[1]

One of the main benefits of OTT streaming is the ability to stream content over a multitude of devices. Most OTT apps (including the big four mentioned above) allow you to stream content on a mobile device, tablet, computer, smart tv, streaming player (Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire Stick, etc), and a number of gaming consoles. With there being so many options for viewing content, the question arises - which device do consumers prefer the most?

Netflix recently reported that 70% of their global streams take place on TVs, 15% on computer, 10% on mobile, and only 5% on tablets.[2] Youtube on the other hand reported that 70% of their consumers’ time spent on the app is via a mobile device.[3] The striking difference between Netflix and YouTube can be explained by differences between their two distinct OTT models that drive each app. Netflix is a SVOD (subscription video on demand) service, so consumers must pay a monthly subscription to access the content. Netflix’s content includes TV shows and movies (long form content), as well as original content only available on Netflix - which explains why customers are charged a monthly fee. YouTube is an AVOD (advertising video on demand) service. Most content is short form produced, allowing consumers to view a short clip rather than a full TV show or movie . How do these differences relate to the device preference statistics? They are, in fact, the underlying reasons for the preferences. Consumers prefer a mobile device when watching short form content; quick, fast viewing of short clips, likely on-the-go, but.   migrate towards a larger screen for a better viewing experience when watching a longer, fully produced movie or TV show.

Device preferences also strongly differ by region. A plethora of different factors play into these regional preferences, ranging from the wealth of a particular region to cultural practices. Take Asia for example, where consumers have demonstrated a clear preference for mobile devices. To be more specific, the ratio of mobile to PC use in Asian countries highlights a lopsided proclivity for streaming content on mobile devices.[4] Mobile devices are also a popular choice in North America, but don’t dominate the OTT device market as strongly as in Asia. Consumers in North America, particularly in the United States, have shown a strong inclination towards Smart TVs, with Apple TV emerging as the clear-cut preferred model. This heavy Smart TV usage is likely explained by the presence of televisions in American households. On average, an American household has between 2 to 3 televisions, whereas, there are few households in Europe that have more than one TV. [5] This abundance or TVs in America indicates that televisions remain a popular means of entertainment, and therefore a key device for OTT streaming purposes (this is echoed by Netflix’s device viewership statistics mentioned above). Smart TVs have also become increasingly popular in Latin America, with Google Chromecast emerging as the service of choice in the region.

While Asia and North America have relatively distinct device preference for OTT streaming, the same cannot be said for Europe and Africa. OTT device preferences strongly vary across Europe; for example, surveys indicate the 56% of OTT consumers in Poland stream content from their PC onto their television, while only a mere 29% do so across the United Kingdom.[6] Meanwhile, in Africa, while mobile streaming in on the rise, there remains ambiguity towards the OTT device of choice. Cost could be a factor in mobile’s quick claim to popularity in Africa, as mobile devices remain more cost-effective than laptops or televisions.[7] So while the worldwide OTT trend seems to underline a global preference for mobile streaming of short form content), it is important to remember that there are regional exceptions. 

Writing Contributions: Owen Marshall & Thomas de Villemejane


[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]