The State of OTT Viewership


“Over-the-top” (OTT) viewing has been a growing trend the past few years; steadily the number of people and households watching streaming services has increased. In early 2020 when COVID and the resulting quarantines hit, more people than ever had the time and access to watch streaming content. The total reach of OTT rose 19.2% among households with Head of Households 25-54 from 34MM in July 2019 to 41MM in December 2020.

During their time at home, not only are more people streaming, but they are spending even more time on streaming apps watching unlimited content. The numbers of hours watched per household hit 117 hours in the months of April, May, and October of 2020, an 18-month high.

The increase in overall OTT viewership isn’t the only shift seen over the past year. The number of households ditching their traditional Cable or Satellite service is rising as well. We’ve seen a 32.6% increase in Cordless Households (HH) according to comScore data over the past 18 months.

When we look further into where people are watching content, Ad-Supported Streaming services, such as Hulu, Tubi TV, Sling, Pluto. TV, hold a substantial majority of total hours spent vs. Linear Network Extensions, such as ABC, Discovery, ESPN.

OTT Time Spent on Linear Network Extensions vs. Ad Supported Streaming Services

In terms of Ad-Supported Streaming services, it’s not a surprise that YouTube and Hulu are at the top. Depending on the HH (Subscriber or Cordless), we see Tubi TV and Pluto TV following in terms of total HH reach. All HHs are also spending time on streaming cable TV services like Spectrum, Sling, and Philo.

One category of Linear Networks services that is doing better than others is sports platforms. ESPN, NBC Sports, and WWE streaming platforms have higher hours per HH watched than other similar linear apps.

With Discovery+, Peacock, and Paramount+ all in the mix in 2021, it will be interesting to see where viewership goes. If people will continue to spend more hours watching on streaming cable providers or if they will make the switch to these larger brand consolidated apps.

The one thing we do know is OTT streaming is here to stay. With more content and platforms than ever, we will likely see streaming viewership increase in 2021 and beyond.