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Online video usage in the United States - Statistics & Facts

Watching videos via the internet is one of the most popular activities for online audiences worldwide, and users in the United States make no exception. Online video has become increasingly integrated into the daily lives of online users and has overlapped with areas normally reserved for traditional television viewing. According to a 2021 survey of consumers in the United States, more than seven in ten respondents reported not subscribing to cable or satellite TV because they had the possibility to access the content they wanted to watch online.

In recent years, the popularity of subscription video-on-demand services has brought more choices for consumers as well as an increase in competition for well-established video giants like Netflix, with traditional television networks and video providers tapping into the format. HBO Max, which launched first in the United States in May 2020, saw 31 percent of consumers using the platform weekly during the last quarter of 2021, up from the 18 percent reported in the same period of the previous year.

Online video subscriptions might not be the only challenge that traditional TV will have to endure in the next years. In parallel of being the quintessential video platform of the internet, YouTube is increasingly equated to mainstream TV, with 42 percent of viewers in the United States reporting to consider watching content on YouTube like watching TV. Additionally, YouTube now dominates the rankings for preferred platform to watch short videos, after embracing the format in 2020 after it was popularized by TikTok.

From live TV to live streaming

According to a forecast based on August 2020 data, viewers watching live videos in the United States are expected to increase to 154 million by the end of 2021. This would represent an increase of around 22 percent compared to 2019, when audiences watching live events, live TV broadcasting, and live streamed online content were 126.7 million. In 2021, YouTube Live was the most popular platform to watch live content among all the examined demographics in the United States, with more than three in 10 respondents aged 55 or older reporting to use the platform. Breaking news live broadcasts attracted the largest number of U.S. live viewers, followed by comedy content and videos by friends and family. Apart from entertainment, social media platforms have been increasingly popular in real-time shopping, with YouTube, Facebook Live, and Instagram Live attracting more U.S. consumers than Amazon’s namesake live streaming platform.

Mobile video

Improvements in hardware technology and broadband networks have helped make watching videos on mobile devices one of the most common activities for global users. In 2021, smartphones were the most widely used devices to watch digital video content by users in the United States, with 62 percent of respondents reporting to prefer these devices to laptops and smart TVs. YouTube and social media videos were among the most popular types of video content users watched on mobile, followed by TV shows and movies. In 2021, mobile apps of popular streaming platforms were among the most downloaded entertainment and video apps, with HBO Max generating 46 million downloads, while the Netflix app ranked second and amassed 38 million downloads. Disney+, which ranked third based on downloads for the year, was the highest-grossing mobile video app between the first and the third quarter of 2021.

Online video advertising

In recent years, video advertising has become part of users’ digital experience when interacting with a number of different content types on the internet. While search ads still represented almost half of all online ad revenues in the United States in 2020, close to 19 percent of all online advertising revenues in the country originated by digital video. The entertainment market and major subscription-based streaming platforms might also make use of advertising in the future. With Disney+ to introduce ad-supported subscriptions in March 2022, and Netflix announcing they might consider the possibility in the future, ad-supported video streaming (AVOD) services are estimated to see a 16 percent audience growth by 2022 in the United States.


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