StoryScout 2024

Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Nielsen’s The Gauge: Streaming Rises. Cable / Broadcast Viewing is Resilient… for Now. Watch Out for Young Viewers

Last week Nielsen released The Gauge, a very useful pie chart that captures the total time Americans spent watching cable TV, broadcast TV and streaming services.

Digging deeper reveals the seismic shift that our industry is experiencing.

The Gauge:

Here it is…

Let’s dig into the findings:

Cable + Broadcast: 64%

  • Cable (39%) & Broadcast (25%) networks combine for 64% of viewing time,
  • Streaming accounts for 26% of viewing time.

Individual Streamers

  • Disney+ (including Nat Geo) accounts for just 1% of viewership.
    • That came as a bit of a shock relative to all the press and promotion!
    • But its another matter if you extend that 1% to Disney+’s global footprint.
  • Netflix enjoys 6% of U.S. viewing.
  • Discovery+ doesn’t break out, and is buried in the long tail of “Other Streaming: 8%.”
  • These measures of viewing extend across all of programs in the streamers’ massive inventories, from their hit movies and dramas to documentaries.
  • The data suggests that even breakout documentaries are earning modest to micro ‘ratings’ compared with their  audiences in the Broadcast & Cable eras.

Streaming’s Share Accelerates


  • A healthy documentary industry depends on robust platform revenues.
  • Its good news that except for YouTube, the leading streamers are subscription based rather than free and ad-supported.
  • And YouTube (6% of viewing) includes its paid service that actively buys documentaries.
  • The Other category (9%) includes the fast-rising ad-supported streaming platform category like Tubi and Pluto, and they are beginning to ramp up their orders of originals.

Young Viewers: The Coming Wave

  • Nielsen’s report is based on viewers 2+.
  • In March 2021, Nielsen reported that:
    • The 18-34 demo spent less than 8.5 minutes per week watching Live plus Time-shifted TV.
    • That compares with 35 minutes per week for the 50-64 demo,
    • And 46.5 minutes per week for 65+ viewers.
  • Industry analyst Bruce Leichtman found that:
    • 54% of 18-34 year olds watch video on a connected TV daily,
    • 22% of 55+ year olds do so.
  • The data points towards the trend that will overtake the channels and broadcasters.