How Much Netflix Is America Really Watching? Less Than You Think.

Sometimes, when trying to figure out the fast-changing media business, it’s helpful to have the whole picture.

That’s what Nielsen is trying to do with its new snapshot it calls The Gauge. We had a chance to check it out and realized that if you live in an upper-middle-class, educated, younger-skewing bubble, you can see the trends but you might be missing the whole landscape. Check out this report, as it will likely surprise you. Here are some highlights:

  • Despite an outsized share of attention and chatter, Netflix’s share of TV viewing in the U.S. is actually six percent
  • Hulu grabs about three percent, similar to Amazon Prime
  • Disney+, which received so much pandemic buzz, is at about one percent.

In total, streaming TV has about 26 percent of the audience in the U.S. Considering that’s up from zero not too long ago, it’s remarkable. But it’s not dominant. At least not yet. Old fashioned broadcast TV still has 25 percent of viewing and cable TV, despite all you hear about “cord cutting” (especially from “cord cutters”) still claims 39 percent of viewing.

Part of the challenge with trying to make educated decisions about audience behavior is that too many of us think the rest of media consumers mirror our habits. As we’ve written before, evening cable TV “news” is often referred to casually as “The Media,” but is actually a niche product that the vast majority of American viewers don’t watch.

The lesson here is that knowledge about media consumption is a lot like that sour cream that you bought over the weekend at the grocery store. It’s a perishable item that you’ll want to keep an eye on because sooner, rather than later, it’s not going to do you any good.