6% of Households Watch TV Solely on Mobile Devices, Survey Finds

A growing number of U.S. households are watching TV exclusively on their mobile devices, according to new findings from the Advertising Research Foundation.

ARF’s survey, which comprises data collected online, face to face and by phone from 10,504 people ages 18 and over, finds that over 6% of U.S. household respondents are watching TV exclusively on their mobile devices, an increase of more than 1 million homes since 2022. Between ’22-’23, the percentage of total households without a TV set grew from 7% to 8%.

“The trend toward TV access exclusively on mobile devices shows no signs of letting up, particularly because younger households drive the trend,” ARF chief research officer Paul Donato said in a Thursday statement. “Not surprisingly, younger households are behind many of the dynamics changing the shape of TV.”

According to the survey, 18 to 24 year olds accounted for 17% of households without a TV set in 2023, compared to 14% for 25-34 year olds, 7% for 35-44 year olds, 3% for 55-64 year olds and 2% for 65+.

When looking at households’ “yesterday viewing,” 83% of 18-24 year olds watch on any screen, 60% watch on a TV and 33% watch on any device. For 34-55 year olds, those percentages shift to 88%, 77% and 17%, respectively, and for 65+, the percentages are 89%, 85% and 7%, respectively.

The firm argues that the rise of device-only TV households highlights the need to “redefine the basis of TV audience measurement to include all households consuming TV signals, not just those who own TV sets.”

In addition to the findings on mobile device viewing of TV, ARF found that household penetration of ad-supported streaming services rose from 17% in 2022 to 45% in 2023, while the penetration of ad-free versions fell from 79% to 72%.

Households headed by 18-54s accounted for 62% of U.S. households
in 2023, but an estimated 71% of the more than 400 million paid streaming subscriptions in the U.S. Unsurprisingly, those households were much more likely to subscribe to streaming services and more of them, than their older counterparts.

In 2023, 10% of younger households went without a paid streaming TV service and 62% had three or more, compared to 28% of older households having no paid streaming TV subscription and 41% having three or more. Younger households were also more likely than older households to add subscription and shift tiers within services, but older households were more likely to cancel services — especially SVOD — outright.

Netflix led U.S. household penetration with 63% of total respondents, followed by Amazon’s Prime Video (57%), Hulu (40%), Disney+ (36%), Max (26%), Peacock (24%), Paramount+ (23%) and Apple TV+ (16%).

Since unveiling its password-sharing crackdown, the number of Netflix accounts shared with outside relatives dropped from 36% in 2022 to 28% in 2023 and those shared with friends dropped from 13% to 9%. Sharing levels among Disney+ (13% to 9%) and Amazon subscribers (8% to 5%) also fell year over year, though neither company took action in 2023 to limit sharing in the U.S.

Households headed by people 55+ were more likely than their younger counterparts to take on a virtual multichannel programming distributor (vMVPD), such as YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV, to watch linear TV, suggesting that those services have mainstreamed.

ARF also found that limited live television services through Paramount+ and Peacock, which offer local and network programming from CBS and NBC, respectively, added live TV access to 6% of U.S. households that previously had none.

Additionally, FAST services sped onto the scene in 2023, with 22% of total households surveyed using one, 12% using two, 7% using three and 4% using four.

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