News flash: People watch a lot of TV, and despite what you might have heard, they still watch a lot of broadcast TV as well. According to Nielsen’s Total Day and Most Current data for the first eight months of the 2021-22 television season, broadcast’s four networks substantially surpassed the total minutes watched from five of the major streaming services combined.
CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox collectively accumulated 2.14 trillion minutes watched, while Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Apple TV+ combined for 1.9 trillion minutes. HBO Max, which currently has the second most domestic subscribers of any streaming service, is not included in Neilsen’s analysis.
While not having HBO Max’s numbers makes Nielsen’s already cloudy numbers even more complicated, based on what we have to work with, Netflix nearly matched the combined viewing minutes of CBS and NBC combined. Netflix accounted for 1.33 trillion minutes while the top two broadcast networks totaled 1.35 trillion combined.
Despite concerns about Netflix's declining subscriber base, the service continues to dominate the streaming airwaves, especially with HBO Max not included. According to Neilsen’s estimates, the world’s largest streamer maintained a 1.09 trillion minute lead over Disney+’s 245.4 billion minutes. In fact, Netflix has a robust 765 billion minute lead over the other four streamers included combined. That total is more than any broadcast network.
CBS is holding onto a healthy 156.1 billion minute lead over its nearest broadcast competitor, NBC. Paramount’s broadcast arm has built its lead with a steady stream of reliable procedurals and middle-of-the-road sitcoms and a huge helping of live sports.
In fact, more people watched sports on CBS from September 2021 through the first week of May 2022 than watched all of Amazon, Hulu, or Apple TV+. Across its pro and college football, college basketball, golf, soccer, and other sports programming, CBS amassed 211 billion minutes of viewership time while Amazon accounted for just 173.7 billion minutes in total; Hulu was at 128.1B and Apple TV+ at 21.7B.
Diving into some of the show-specific numbers really reveals how far Apple TV+ has to go in order to begin competing. Despite the fact that the streamer launched “The Problem with Jon Stewart” in September, the former “Daily Show” host’s platforn is being trounced by his former correspondent alone. While Apple’s 21.7B presents a steep climb to catch up with other streamers, it is also currently looking up at “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” which collected 22.5B minutes on its own over the course of the season thus far.
While Disney+ is hot on HBO Max’s heels for second-most domestic subscribers, the streamer is also closing in on broadcast’s fourth-rated network. At 323.1B minutes viewed, Fox’s viewership numbers are just 77.7 billion more than the Disney streamer, according to Nielsen. Given that Disney+ will be launching a lower-cost, ad-supported tier this fall, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the streamer could close that 31% gap by the time these numbers are released a year from now.
While ABC is in third amongst networks and Disney+ and Hulu both trail Netflix, when you combine the three Disney broadcasters included in these Nielsen numbers, things start to look pretty good for the House of Mouse. When looking at the sum of the three outlets, Disney’s combined 845.5 billion minutes is second only to Netflix. Of course, these numbers do not include any of Disney’s cable channels or ESPN+, which is continuing to grow as well.
Obviously, there are inherent issues in comparing numbers between streaming services and broadcast networks, as the availability and barriers to entry for each are markedly different; even comparing streamers can be problematic given their varying price points, longevity, and content offerings. But even judging by the incomplete data provided by Nielsen, it is clear that some entertainment narratives might need a reexamination.
Despite reports to the contrary, broadcast is certainly not dead yet, and Netflix is in no way, shape, or form in trouble of relinquishing its streaming crown any time soon.