Survey Shows Majority of Voters No Longer Subscribe to Traditional TV

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(Image credit: Calmatters)

SAN FRANCISCO—As more viewers cut the cord and abandon traditional pay-TV subscriptions, this phenomenon is having an impact on how political candidates get their message out. 

According to a new survey from Samba TV and HarrisX of more than 2,300 U.S. adults registered to vote in November in 10 key battleground states and nationally, streaming content has overtaken traditional television as the medium of choice for voters in both parties. With one month before the November elections, voters report being nearly twice as likely to stream content as having a monthly cable subscription, with a majority of U.S. voters in both parties no longer having traditional linear TV subscriptions in the home, the companies said.     

“The story this election season is the same whether you are looking nationally or at the key battleground states,” said Ashwin Navin, Co-Founder and CEO of Samba TV. “Voters have left traditional linear television in droves. Only 39% of independent swing voters in battleground states have traditional TV. With so many elections now being determined by the slimmest of margins, campaigns need to dramatically rethink how they reach voters in the closing weeks to ensure they are not just saturating the same shrinking number of households with ads while leaving the vast majority of the electorate under-reached.”   

The data points clearly that the future king of political ad spending will be streaming.

Dritan Nesho, Founder and CEO of HarrisX

In the 2020 battleground state of Arizona, a Samba TV analysis of all linear television ads run in the final 30 days of the competitive Senate race found 90% of the ads reached just the same 55% of Arizona households, highlighting the critical need for campaigns to shift strategies to reach voters where they now spend most of their time. 

“The data points clearly that the future king of political ad spending will be streaming. Voter eyeballs are more likely to be present by a factor of almost two to one,” said Dritan Nesho, Founder and CEO of HarrisX.

Political campaigns have been slow to adapt to this trend however. According to AdImpact, a record $9.7 billion will be spent on political advertising by the end of the 2022 election cycle with broadcast TV to get the bulk ($4.98 billion, representing 51.45%), followed by cable ($1.54 billion, 15.93%), then connected TV and digital (both at $1.44 billion, 14.92%) and $0.27 billion (2.77%) on radio. 

The survey found that just just 49% of U.S. registered voters have traditional TV and that one in four of those who do still have traditional TV plan to cancel in the next 6 months. Independents, the key swing voter block, are the least likely to have traditional TV, with only 4 in 10 (42%) having it today and in key battleground states, only 39% of independents have traditional TV.

In addition more than 80% of registered voters nationally and in key battleground states stream. Just 55% of those nationally and 56% of those in key battleground states who definitely plan to vote have a traditional TV subscription and in battleground states Democrats are much more likely to stream video on their mobile phones (72% compared to 59% of Republicans).

Not surprisingly, Millennial and Gen Z voters are even harder to reach with these age groups more than twice as likely to stream than to have a traditional linear subscription today—this gap is even wider for younger voters in battleground states. 

Facebook remains the most used platform by registered voters nationally but has less of an impact in the key battleground states. Democrat voters are significantly more likely to use TikTok than Republicans nationally with 37% of Democratic voters using it weekly compared to just 27% of Republican voters. 

This survey was conducted online within the United States from Aug. 29-Sept. 1 among 2,300 adults who identified as registered voters by HarrisX . Battleground states listed include PA, NV, WI, GA, AZ, NH, NC, OH, FL and CO.  

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.