Digital Video Viewing Time to Surpass TV Viewing in 2023

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NEW YORK—In what researchers are calling an inflection point in the time Americans’ spend viewing video, a new forecast from Insider Intelligence is predicting that for the first time, U.S. adults will spend more time watching digital video than traditional linear TV, according to the latest time spent forecast from Insider Intelligence.

In 2022, digital video time among US adults nearly caught up to TV time. U.S. adults spent an average of 3 hours and 2 minutes per day watching digital video and 3 hours and 7 minutes watching linear TV. Except for a slight uptick in 2020, daily TV time has declined every year since 2013, and it will continue to drop through 2024, the researchers said. 

Conversely, digital video time saw double-digit growth every year between 2011 and 2021. Growth slowed to single digits in 2022 but will remain positive through 2024, Insider Intelligence is predicting. 

This year, Insider Intelligence is forecasting that U.S. adults’ daily TV time will drop to 2 hours and 55 minutes, while digital video time will climb to 3 hours and 11 minutes. Linear TV will now represent 47.7% of total time spent with TV and digital video per day (the first time it’s dropped below 50%), while digital video will make up 52.3%.

The researchers noted that TikTok is driving social video consumption and they are predicting that TikTok's total viewing time will surpass Facebook in 2024

The researchers have defined traditional linear TV as any type of video content delivered via cable, satellite, telecom, or over-the-air antenna; they define digital video as video viewed via over-the-top or connected streaming services, as well as video viewed on social media, including YouTube.

“This milestone is driven by people spending more and more time watching video on their biggest and smallest screens, whether it’s an immersive drama on a connected TV or a viral clip on a smartphone,” said Paul Verna, principal analyst and head of the digital advertising and media desk at Insider Intelligence. “The growth of digital video is especially impressive when you consider that, as recently as four years ago, it accounted for roughly half of TV time. And bear in mind that our time spent forecasts are for adults only. Given teens’ preferences for social and streaming video over TV, we can expect these trends to continue to shift in favor of digital.”

Live sports shifting to streaming services is one reason why digital video consumption is surpassing TV. YouTube won the NFL Sunday Ticket at the end of last year, stealing Sunday evening football games away from DirecTV. Also, MLB sold the streaming rights to Friday night games to Apple TV+ and Sunday morning games to Peacock, Insider Intelligence reported. 

Its forecast also shows that YouTube and Netflix are neck and neck in terms of viewing time, with each grabbing an average of about 33 minutes per day among US adults. Hulu is in second place with 24 minutes, followed by Amazon Prime Video with 11 and Disney+ with 8, the company reported. 

Another key driver of digital video time is social video, the researchers said in a blog post. Average daily time spent with videos on social networks among US adults will climb 9.3% to 45.2 minutes this year. 

“TikTok is a key driver: Its total time spent among all US adults* will climb 14.2% this year to 17.4 minutes. With time spent with Facebook on the decline, TikTok will overtake it next year as the most-consumed social network among US adults. TikTok has been well ahead of Facebook among adult users of each platform since 2020,” the blog post explained. 

“Looking only at adult users of each platform, TikTok is already well ahead of every other social network and YouTube in terms of time spent. Adult TikTok users will spend roughly 56 minutes on the app each day in 2023, versus 48 minutes for adult users of YouTube,” the researchers said. 

“TikTok versus Netflix will be a major trend to watch this year,” said Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst at Insider Intelligence. “The lines between social and entertainment have blurred, and TikTok is now coming for the bigger-screen video players. New TikTok users add incremental new time spent, while its efforts in longer-form video, livestreaming and, more recently, music streaming, keep users on the platform longer. Growth in time spent on Netflix, meanwhile, is stagnant.”

“TikTok’s enormous popularity among young consumers is also what gives it an edge: We expect 18-to-24-year-old TikTok users in the US to spend an average of 1 hour on the app per day this year,” he continued. “With TikTok sending notifications to users ages 13 to 17 when they’ve spent more than 100 minutes on the app in a day, it stands to reason that teens are spending an exorbitant amount of time using TikTok.”

Although it’s not primarily a video platform, it’s worth noting that total time spent with Twitter among US adults will drop 10.7% this year and another 13.3% in 2024, the company predicted. A key reason is that they are predicting a 6.2% decline in monthly active Twitter users in 2023 in the US, and another 8.3% drop next year. Among the six social platforms they cover for time spent, Twitter has ranked next-to-last since TikTok overtook it in 2020. Reddit is sixth.

“As a primarily text-based platform, it’s easy to assume that video is an afterthought for Twitter,” said Enberg. “But videos about news and world events are an important engagement driver for the platform. The problem is that Twitter’s efforts to encourage more original videos, from Vine to Fleets, have so far been unsuccessful. Twitter owner Elon Musk’s attempts to bring more video to the app, including potentially incentivizing YouTube creators to post to Twitter, will be futile at improving time spent among all US adults unless he also manages to stave off a user decline.”

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.