Those looking to watch television shows for free on the Web last year were most likely to head to Hulu.com, according to
new data from the NPD Group.
Hulu dominated all other free streaming TV providers, accounting for 43 percent of total streams during 2012, the market research firm said. But consumers might not even realize that nearly all broadcast and cable TV networks offer free streaming of their programming online.
After Hulu, five broadcast network sites — CBS.com, ABC.com, Fox.com, NBC.com, and CWTV.com — together accounted for another 30 percent of total streams. The cable TV sites ABCFamily.com, ComedyCentral.com, MTV.com, and A&ETV.com rounded out the top 10 free streaming TV sites of the year (see chart below).
While traditional paid TV operators and networks still dominate the consumer TV landscape, free streaming services are “making inroads with TV consumers,” NPD said. In the streaming market, subscription video on demand (SVOD) services like Netflix and Amazon Prime drive the most online TV streams, by far.
Even so, the number of consumers who used paid streaming services in 2012 was “relatively equal” to the amount who took advantage of free streaming services. Twelve percent of U.S. TV watchers said they streamed TV shows for free during the past three months, compared to 14 percent who watched a TV show via SVOD services.
In terms of demographics, more than half of streaming TV viewers are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to Russ Crupnick, senior vice president of industry analysis at NPD.
“The YouTube generation is evolving from short-form and user-generated content to TV shows and, like YouTube, they can watch where and when they want,” Crupnick said in a statement. “Despite the attention lavished on tablets and phones, an astonishing 83 percent of free TV streaming programs are viewed on a computer.”
NPD’s research shows that consumers are very satisfied with free streaming services overall. Each of the top 10 sites had strong consumer feedback, with at least 75 percent of each site’s users saying they plan to use the service again in the future.
Interestingly, however, Fox scored lower than others on release availability, because it generally doesn’t make its content available for free on the Web right away.
“The consumer response to program availability on Fox, speaks to the often-controversial question of whether the audience detects shows that are windowed,” Crupnick said.
By Angela Moscaritolo, PCMag