Study: Half of Americans Struggle to Find Streaming Content

(Image credit: Pixabay)

LOS ANGELES—As streaming options proliferate and streaming services rapidly revamp their offerings, a new study is once again highlighting the difficulties facing viewers trying to find content and manage their increasingly large watchlists.

New research conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Plex, the free global streaming media platform, revealed that the average American has 13 TV shows and 16 movies on their watchlist to get through — averaging a total of 104 hours — which is enough content to last two whole flights around the world. 

The study, which was conducted in July of 2022, also found that half of Americans said it's a struggle to find what streaming platform the content is available on and that they spend an average of 30 minutes flipping through four different streaming services before deciding on what to watch.

The study of 2,000 Americans found that 68% keep a TV show and movie watchlist so lengthy, it's "nearly impossible" for them to get through. While over 7 in 10 (73%) keep a list of shows and films they plan to watch, more than half (58%) said they struggle to keep track of everything they want to watch.

The research also found: 

  • Getting through a watchlist is not easy: Of the 42% of Americans who haven't made it through their watchlist, the biggest obstacles preventing them from completing the list are that it's consistently getting longer (43%), it's already too long (29%) or it's overwhelming (25%).
  • New, buzzy TV serials are the most popular for watchlists: "Stranger Things" topped Americans' watchlists as the TV show they'd most like to watch, followed by "Game of Thrones" (21%) "The Walking Dead" (21%), "Breaking Bad" (19%) and "Squid Game" (19%).
  • Preferred TV show genre varies by generation: While Millennials are nearly twice (45%) as likely than Gen Z (26%) to have true crime shows on their watchlists, sitcoms are most popular on Zoomers' lists (38%). Meanwhile, Gen X and baby boomers both prefer full-hour procedurals (50% and 58%, respectively).
  • Men and women prefer different watchlist formats: Nearly half (46%) of women simply try to remember what they want to watch, and the same number of men (46%) keep a note on their phones for their watchlists.
  • Simply having a list of shows and movies does not cut it for most Americans with 58% reporting that maintaining an organized watchlist is a "must" to ensure they can cross off content from their list. While two-thirds (65%) prefer watching content from their list before defaulting to something else, over half (56%) turn off the TV and find something else to do if they can't find something to watch, and 55% opt for re-watching a show or movie.

Earlier this year, Plex launched with two new features, Discover and Universal Watchlist, to alleviate many of the pain points that plague consumers subscribed to multiple streaming services. With Discover, users can simply search for a title to find where it is streaming. If it's available on a streaming service they have, they can launch it directly from Plex, eliminating time wasted switching from app to app. Users can also easily add any titles to one Universal Watchlist on the Plex app, regardless of where the content is available, making it easier to remember what they want to watch across streaming apps and networks.

"With new content constantly being released to streaming services, it can be difficult to keep track of it all," said Jason Williams, product director at Plex. "With Plex Universal Watchlist, consumers can easily stay updated on their favorite movies and shows across all major streaming platforms, even as their favorite content moves or becomes available on other services. Our goal is to make the streaming experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible."

(Image credit: Plex)
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.