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Report: Viewers Taking 52% Longer to Pick What to Watch than in 2019; Content Discovery Key to Streaming Success

Matt Rainis

We’ve all been there. You’ve sat down on your couch, weary from a long day at work, and you decide you’d like to watch something on one of the myriad streaming services you subscribe to. But as you look through the vast library of shows and movies that are now always at your fingertips, you become overwhelmed. So many of these titles seem appealing, and you just don’t quite know what to choose! Then, if you add another person or two to your viewing party, the difficulty of the decision compounds exponentially.

A recent report released by Nielsen indicates that this problem is becoming more and more common among streaming users. According to this new data, streamers in October 2022 took 52% longer to decide what show to watch than they did in March 2019.

The reasons for this substantial uptick in indecision are numerous; as streaming in continues to experience a period of extreme growth, the average consumer now has more options than ever at their disposal. Users find themselves not only having subscriptions to more streaming services than ever before (a number many would love to reduce), but each of these different services also possesses larger libraries than ever.

Between Netflix’s recent investment in international content leading to an explosion of non-American titles on the streaming giant, the merger between Discovery and WarnerMedia creating a library about the size of Netflix's, and even content being shared between different services, every platform’s catalog seems to be reaching a gargantuan and genuinely staggering size.

The research found that in September 2022, across a variety of streaming services, there were a massive 778,000 titles available to be watched. This was a huge jump from the numbers in December 2019, when there were only 646,000 titles available. With 24% of steaming audiences not knowing what they want to watch before they begin browsing, it’s no wonder why this nearly infinite number of options can be a bit overwhelming.

Additionally, the data seems to suggest that these bouts of intense waffling are most common among younger viewers. Viewers who fall within the 18-32 and the 35-49 age ranges are far more likely to spend more time deciding on a program to watch than their older counterparts, with viewers 65+ taking more than three fewer minutes to decide what to watch than folks from those younger demographics.

But even taking the differences between age groups into account, it’s still a fairly universal problem. In a world where technology gives humans more choices than their brains are apparently capable of comprehending, it’s clear that most people find themselves hitting a mental block in their search for viewing pleasure. But with the discovery of new content being a vital part of streaming services’ efforts to attract and retain customers, viewers getting overwhelmed with the process can have a negative effect.

Currently, 72% of streaming customers say that they grow frustrated trying to find something to watch, and 55% are overwhelmed by the number of streaming services to choose from. So, as services redesign their user interfaces, how platforms recommend titles for individual viewers might be the difference in determining which streamers keep consumers coming back for more, and which ones push their viewers to more user-friendly outlets.

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