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February 8, 2024

Samba TV's State of Viewership Report Finds Declining Linear Reach and Surge in OTT Hours Watched, Shaping Advertising Opportunities in 2024


Report highlights significant shifts in TV consumption habits and their implications for advertisers

SAN FRANCISCO - February 8, 2024 - Samba TV, the leading provider of TV technology for audience data and omniscreen measurement, today released its latest State of Viewership report, analyzing approximately 46 billion hours of linear and streaming in the second half of 2023. The report offers an in-depth macro analysis of the state of linear, streaming, and advertising with some compelling takeaways for brands, agencies, publishers, and platforms. Among the standout findings, linear continued its decline in reach while streaming viewership swelled. Also notable was the early glimpse of how the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes impacted viewership and how major streaming platforms like Netflix are likely to weather the content drought. 

"Our industry was presented with unique opportunities and challenges in 2023, such as the rise of live streaming sports, the impact of the strikes, and the proliferation of new measurement to understand ad performance,” said Samba TV Co-founder and CEO Ashwin Navin. “The traditional TV advertising playbook no longer applies. As the audience shifts to streaming across live and scripted programming, smart advertisers are optimizing frequency, impact, and efficiency together in one comprehensive strategy.

Samba TV’s State of Viewership Report provides a comprehensive overview of linear and Connected TV (CTV) viewership, including consumption of both shows and movies. Samba TV’s report sheds further light on television viewership changes, including:

Year-over-year, linear TV reach experienced a slight decrease and remained steady compared to the first half of 2023. 

  • Linear TV reach in 2023 followed its usual pattern of dropping during the first half of the year but, in a divergence from previous years, it did not spike in the second half. The average daily reach of linear TV in the second half of the year was on par with the first half, and down 4% from the previous year.
  • Over-the-top (OTT) hours viewed experienced increases during Q3 and Q4 of 2023, with 23% and 18% spikes respectively, compared to the previous year. This rise in viewership occurred despite a decrease in programming releases by services like Netflix. However, linear hours viewed decreased during both quarters, as the balance between time spent with connected and traditional TV closes in the coming years.

Subscription cycling and platform churn has only increased over the past year, presenting streamers with new challenges in retaining audiences.

  • As viewers look to limit the number of services they subscribe to in order to control costs, platforms are experiencing increased churn, with over two-thirds of Gen Z and millennial consumers planning to cycle in the next six months. Nearly half (46%) of U.S. households watched two or fewer services throughout the second half of 2023.
  • Streaming platforms made a big push via ad campaigns to convert linear and OTT viewers to subscribers in the second half of 2024, with Paramount+ and Warner Bros. Discovery's Max ranked as the top streaming platforms to serve up ad impressions for their platforms in the second half of 2024. Paramount+ ads dominated with a quarter of the share of voice, particularly during CBS primetime airings. Meanwhile, Netflix experienced the most significant year-over-year growth, serving more than double the number of impressions in the second half of 2023 compared to 2022.
  • When it comes to attracting viewers to a streaming platform, original programming is a draw, but it doesn't guarantee loyalty. Many top platforms see over half of their viewers watching only one of the top 50 programs. Netflix stands out, with almost 70% of viewers engaging with multiple top shows, highlighting the importance of an engaging content library and convincing users of the platform's value and worth.

Adaptations, docuseries, and blockbuster movies on streaming platforms are successful, while live sports remain dominant on linear TV.

  • Eighty-nine of the top 100 most watched linear programs of the half were sports, and NFL games accounted for 76% of those programs, led by Monday Night Football on ABC and Sunday Night Football on NBC. 60 Minutes was the top non-sports program, with episodes on Ukraine and the Israel and Gaza conflict ranking high, boosted by accompanying NFL games.
  • Netflix dominated streaming originals in the second half of 2023. Netflix's strategy to overcome the actors' and writers’ strikes involved focusing on programs based on novels, real events, or docuseries, with 70% of the top 10 streaming shows falling into these categories. This trend is expected to continue into the first half of 2024 as the impact of the strikes lingers.

Navin continued: "On the horizon for 2024, we believe SVOD services will face increased competition from FAST and the reduction in available new content due to the strikes. Streamers need to explore alternatives to the bundling strategy, such as targeting audiences with specific interests on social media where return on ad spend can be attractive relative to traditional media.” 

Advertisers are grappling with the challenge of optimizing reach and frequency in order to drive real-life outcomes, especially ahead of the 2024 election season.

  • During the busiest shopping season, quick-service restaurants (QSR) and retailers took the lead in advertising, with pizza chain Domino's reigning as the top advertiser by impressions. While retailers faced supply chain and inflation challenges, big box retailers such as Amazon, Target, and Walmart increased their ad spend, outpacing department stores like Macy's and Kohl's during the second half of 2023.
  • 92% of ads reached just 50% of U.S. households, with the most engaged half of households bombarded by an average of 150 ads per day. Meanwhile, the other half only saw 8% of ad impressions, averaging about 13 ads per day.
  • Multi-tasking TV viewers are providing new opportunities for advertisers. Most viewers opt for a second screen while watching TV, providing advertisers with a captive audience primed to make purchases based on the ads they see.
  • Political advertisers need to adjust how they’re reaching younger voters. In fact, 46% of Gen Z and millennials are seeing “a lot” or “some” political ads in the past three months, demonstrating how a nuanced strategy is essential to reaching these elusive viewers. This is particularly essential as linear viewership continues to decline, as evidenced by the 2020 battleground senate race alone where 90% of linear ads hit just 55% of households in that state​.

“In what will be a record-setting year of political campaign spending, these advertisers are facing the challenge of reaching a voter base that is more fragmented and disenfranchised than ever before. This election will be determined by streaming. To reach key voters in a meaningful way, it is crucial for these advertisers to lean into a data-driven, holistic, and real-time approach to addressing both traditional TV viewers and streamers alike,” said Navin.

For more insights and to access the full State of Viewership report by Samba TV, please download here.

About Samba TV

Samba TV has transformed the TV from a pane of glass on the wall to a window into the heart of audiences. We are the global leader in television technology powering real-time insights and audience targeting to enable unparalleled marketing efficiency and effectiveness. Our proprietary first-party data from tens of millions of opted-in televisions, across more than 20 TV brands sold in over 100 countries, provides advertisers and media companies a unified view of the entire consumer journey. Our independent measurement has future-proofed advertising for the next generation, empowering advertisers to connect with their audiences on any platform, across every screen.

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