Connected TV

It Finally Happened: CTV is More Popular than Linear

CTV is now watched more than cable or broadcast—and advertisers are taking notice

It Finally Happened: CTV is More Popular than Linear

3 Min Read

It’s official: Americans now stream more content than they watch anything on broadcast or cable TV.

TV measurement firm Nielsen reports that July 2022 saw streaming platforms—led by Netflix—surpass cable networks to claim the largest share of U.S. TV viewing. While it may have seemed inevitable—every year more people cut the cord while streaming subscriptions continue to rise—the milestone is a watershed moment for streaming. No longer a secondary player to broadcast TV, Connected TV is now the dominant form of entertainment on TV screens across America.

CTV’s Rise to Dominance

According to Nielsen, July saw streaming represent a record 34.8% share of total consumption among American TV households. Cable came in close behind at 34.4% and broadcast TV fell to 21.6%. While streaming has surpassed broadcast television before, this is the first time it has ever bested cable—and it’s a story we’re likely to see repeated in the months and years ahead.

Overall streaming usage in July increased 3.2% over June, and time spent streaming averaged almost 191 billion minutes per week. According to Nielsen, each of the five measurement weeks of July 2022 now accounts for five of the six highest-volume streaming weeks on record. Notable in the report is Netflix, who once again held the largest share of overall TV viewing on streaming platforms—8.0%, a record high for the service—and is preparing to launch an ad-supported offering soon.

The Next Evolution of Television

CTV overtaking both cable and broadcast TV might be a monumental occasion, but there hasn’t been a lot of fanfare around it. Why’s that? Maybe it’s because this just feels like the natural order of things. Much like last week’s announcement that Amazon Prime’s “Thursday Night Football” will be the first live-streaming show rated by Nielsen, CTV isn’t thought of as a whole new platform anymore—it’s just the natural evolution of TV.

As Media Post’s Joe Mandese recently mused, “For at least half my time spent covering the medium, people have been flummoxing how to describe [CTV] and what to actually call it. So it seems fitting that yet another Nielsen ratings milestone reminds us it’s really just TV.” As entertainment—including professional sports—continues to migrate from linear and chase its audiences onto CTV, this thinking of Connected TV as the next natural stage of television is likely to increase.

Advertisers Double Down

It’s not just media pundits and consumers that see CTV as the next evolution of television—advertisers do too. Despite the economic uncertainty in the air, ad budgets are still staying strong. Upfront media investment in Q2 is up in 2022, growing 3% compared to the same time last year. Still, a year-over-year drop of 15% in the scatter market suggests that while the TV ads market is healthy, advertisers are budgeting shrewdly for more near-term deals. It’s clear that advertisers think of TV as a crucial channel but are looking to maximize every ad dollar spent—and that’s driving them to CTV.

A 2021 IAB study found that 60% of U.S. digital media buyers planned to shift budgets from linear TV to CTV, and 81% of marketers cite targeting and efficiency as the main driver for investing in Connected TV advertising. In fact, 25% of advertisers say CTV is the most valuable media channel—and as the platform continues to siphon away views from broadcast and cable, this sentiment is bound to only grow.

So, What’s Next?

Thanks to its digital DNA, Connected TV is a platform that continues to grow, adapt, and evolve—instead of plateauing shortly after launch like its forebears. The last two years have seen dramatic upgrades in targeting, measurement, and ad delivery, as premium CTV platforms like Performance TV launch affinity-based targeting, geo-targeting, and perfect existing methodologies like Cross-Device Verified Visits. All of these features and their benefits will keep fueling CTV’s rise to the top for advertisers, and the next few years are likely to be Connected TV’s most exciting yet.