The wild growth of streaming flattened out for the first time in four months, due in part to the fact that kids have returned to school, according to a new study from TV ratings and research firm Nielsen.
“After three months of consecutive growth, the rise of streaming took a pause” in August, according to the report, which measures TV and video streaming marketshare in the US.
Overall streaming during the month accounted for 28 percent of all US TV viewing in August, according to Nielsen, compared with 24 percent for broadcast and 36 percent for cable. This marks the first month that streaming has been flat since Nielsen began releasing its data of viewing patterns in May.
The coronavirus pandemic has been a boon for streaming as consumers have been housebound and in search of entertainment and ways to keep the kids busy. At the end of 2020, top streamers, including Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon’s Prime Video, finished the year with a total 50 percent more subscribers than they had a year ago.
But in recent months, those same streaming services have warned of slower subscriber growth as the country has slowly reopened and more Americans have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and are thus spending less time at home.
In July, Netflix boss Reed Hastings said the pandemic has caused “lumpiness” in its growth recently, even as it added 1.5 million new customers in the second quarter for a total of over 209 million global subscribers. For the upcoming quarter, the streamer expects to add 3.5 million subscribers, falling short of analysts’ estimates of 5.5 million.
In its study, Nielsen attributed the slowdown in streaming growth to the back-to-school season. Children between 6 and 17 years old viewed 7.5 percent less programming across the board, and that age group skews toward streaming, the report said.
On the positive side, TV viewing ticked up half a percentage point compared with July, thanks to the Tokyo Olympics, which drove a 2.9 percent increase for broadcast TV. That uptick came even as the Summer Games turned in a historically poor TV ratings performance.
Nielsen cited other standout events on broadcast and cable, such as Major League Baseball’s “Field of Dreams,” which boosted ESPN’s ratings, as well as the start of the National Football League’s preseason on cable.
Elsewhere, Nielsen said its “other” category, which includes gaming, remained flat with 10 percent share, which was also due in part to children returning to school.