New Research Shows Netflix and Hulu Plus Threaten Traditional Cable and Satellite as “Input One”

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New study from Hub Entertainment Research shows that as online sources become more familiar, some are beginning to challenge cable and satellite services as consumers’ default source of TV.

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Online platforms outperform traditional TV in areas that have a big impact on consumer choice--like viewing flexibility, discovery, and marathoning multiple episodes.

As online platforms like Netflix and Hulu gain ground among mainstream consumers, some are poised to challenge traditional cable and satellite services as the default source for TV and movies, according to a new study titled “Decoding the Default” by Hub Entertainment Research.

The study was conducted in July 2013, among 1,010 consumers who watch at least some TV from online sources. The findings reveal shifts in viewing behavior that could signal which platforms will be the clearinghouse for entertainment in the future.

  •     HALF OF RESPONDENTS DEFAULT TO WATCHING LIVE TV. Fifty percent of respondents said that Live TV is their default source—“the source they turn to first” when they want to watch TV. That’s highest among all sources, but still leaves half of respondents who use other platforms first.
  •     TIME SHIFTED TV IS "INPUT ONE" FOR MANY CONSUMERS. Including 21% who say they default to programs stored on their DVR.
  •     NETFLIX CONSUMES A DISPROPORTIONATELY HIGH AMOUNT OF TOTAL TV VIEWING. Netflix accounted for 16% of the total viewing time across respondents who watch at least some TV online, in spit of the fact that just two-thirds have a subscription.
  •     PEOPLE WHO USE HULU PLUS ARE HIGHLY ENGAGED. Twenty-nine percent of Hulu Plus subscribers say it’s their default source for TV content, much higher than Netflix subscribers (only 20% of whom say Netflix is their default source.)
  •     NEW ENTRANTS ARE FINDING A MARKET THAT'S RECEPTIVE TO TV ALTERNATIVES. Even Aereo—brand new and only in three markets at the time of the study—is known to 11% of online consumers nationwide. And in the 3 markets where Aereo is available, 20% of consumers in the study have heard of the brand.

Finally—the study also reinforces findings in earlier research that specific attributes (like access through multiple devices and ease of discovering new programs) drive which sources consumers choose as their default. Consumers associate online sources like Netflix and Hulu with these attributes than more than they do traditional TV providers—suggesting that if nothing changes, traditional set-top boxes may lose “input one” status among more consumers in the future.

“Traditional pay TV has had a monopoly on default viewing for decades,” says Jon Giegengack, a partner at Hub Entertainment Research. “However—online platforms outperform traditional pay TV services in areas that really matter to consumers—like viewing flexibility, discovery, and ‘marathoning’ multiple episodes in one sitting. As consumers become even more comfortable with these alternatives, more may shift away from traditional providers as their default source.”

“The emphasis that alternative platforms have placed on giving consumers multiple ways to view puts even more pressure on pay TV services.” says co-author Peter Fondulas. “At least among the sizable portion of the market that watches some TV online, flexibility in how one can view is actually more important than pay TV’s traditional trump card—up-to-date, “live” content.”

“Decoding the Default” showcases the findings of an online survey of 1,010 U.S. consumers aged 18 to 54, who watch at least five hours of TV per week, have broadband access at home, and watch at least some television online. A report with additional findings from this study is available as a free download from Hub Entertainment Research. The study was conducted in July 2013.

Hub Entertainment Research is a market research firm with deep expertise in television, movie, videogame, music, publishing, and sports—anywhere that entertainment and new technology overlap. In the television industry, Hub analysts work with networks, content producers, MSOs, and digital distributors. Our job is to help our clients understand the greatest risks and most promising opportunities for their brands, and to reveal the clearest paths to success in a changing marketplace. For more information, please visit us at

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Jon Giegengack
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