When asked which streaming platform I use the most, my answer isn’t particularly fashionable. It’s not HBO Max or Netflix; it’s not Disney+, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video. Instead it’s YouTube TV, which has become my go-to digital replacement for the nostalgic joy of cable. It’s on in my household from early morning (starting with Squawk Box on CNBC) through midday (news updates via CNN) and right on through the evening (whatever sports game is on, plus reruns of Forensic Files on HLN before bed).
It’s easy to forget, after all, that some of the fastest growing platforms in the fragmented streaming space aren’t the ones you read most about, but rather YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and even the FAST services (free ad-supported streaming television) like Tubi and Pluto TV, which offer an antidote to the never-ending choice paralysis that plagues the on-demand experience. Nielsen’s monthly gauge metric, which provides a snapshot into the viewing habits of U.S. households, recently saw YouTube earn the top spot among all streaming services (8 percent of all viewing) and Hulu take third (3.8 percent)—both were greatly helped by live streaming. Pluto TV was recorded by the gauge in September, making it one of the first FAST services to capture more than 1 percent of all U.S. viewing, as measured by Nielsen.
The bigger incumbents are increasingly looking to experiment with live programming, too. Netflix announced its first live special with a Chris Rock performance, which is dropping in early 2023. Peacock is bringing NBC affiliate channels to customers so they can access live, local programming, including news. It also benefits from carrying the network’s vaunted Sunday Night Football telecast. Sports, of course, remain key to the pivot. Whereas they were once considered the final frontier of linear, they are now the next threshold for streaming. Apple signed a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer and is dabbling in Major League Baseball. Amazon now has Thursday Night Football, whose season premiere led to the biggest growth in domestic Amazon Prime subscribers in a three-hour period, beating out Prime Day and Black Friday. Hulu + Live TV has grown 10 percent year over year as of Q4.