The percentage of free or paid streaming video subscribers in the United States has surpassed paid TV subscribers for the first time.

streaming video global

Connected audiences streaming content has reached 68%, with viewers preferring to watch content on mobile devices including laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Despite TV ownership in American households reaching a high of 96%, with an average of 2.8 TVs per household, portable devices have become the favoured medium to view content.

Steve Koenig, Senior Director of Market Research, Consumer Technology Association (CTA), said, “More and more consumers are embracing the freedom of connectivity – in this case, the anytime – anywhere access to video content.”

According to a new study released by the CTA, video subscribers in the United States have exceeded the number of paid television subscribers.

The research highlights TV content consumption is at a solid 51%, down 11% from 2012.

The driving trends of our time

Consumers are able to access an abundance of video content through a diversified array of consumer technology devices.

“This is one of the driving trends of our time. Today’s advancement of technology delivers ‘content convenience’ that results in cultural changes such as binge watching, second screen behaviour, content recommendations and the screens consumers use to consume video,” Koenig said.

The growing diversity of content sources available together with multiple viewing devices are the main factors to raise the consumer’s average video consumption. The CTA study identified that viewer content consumption per week is increasing considerably – up 32% since 2001. In 2016 this equated to 16.8 hours a week or 3.2 hours a day.

CTA research predicted 4K Ultra HD TVs are among the technology industry’s fastest growing segment. The sale of 4K TVs are projected by CTA to reach 15 million units in 2017, a 51% increase, earning manufacturers $14.6 USbn dollar revenue.

Nonetheless, Koenig said, “we expect streaming subscribers to surpass paid TV services – and by a fair margin – in the next year or so”. The CTA research highlighted the rise of non-traditional media for content discovery for the consumer. Roughly one in five cite streaming service recommendations, social media, or radio, TV and or podcast host recommendations to learn about new content.

Among categories tracked by CTA’s forecasts, U.S. sales of connected devices are projected to reach 600 million units in 2017 - a record high total and 5% year-on-year increase from 2016.

Emerging Technology Categories

  • Smart Home: This is evolving as consumers’ most popular means of IoT engagement. CTA projects the smart home category – including smart thermostats, smart smoke and CO detectors, IP/Wi-Fi cameras, smart locks and doorbells, smart home systems, and smart switches, dimmers and outlets – to reach sales of 29 million units in 2017 (63% increase over 2016), earning $3.5bn (57% increase).

  • Digital Assistant Devices: These products present an opportunity to understand how home tech products will integrate artificial intelligence over time. 2017 unit sales projections for voice-controlled, stand-alone digital assistant devices with a cloud-based operating system – including Amazon’s Echo and Google Home – are expected to reach 4.5 million units (52% increase) and reach $608 million in revenue (36% increase).

  • 4K Ultra High-Definition (4K UHD): 4K UHD TVs are one of the industry’s fastest growing segments, driven in part by next-generation technologies such as high dynamic range and wide color gamut. Growth of the 4K UHD market significantly outpaces the transition to high-definition television, with just three years since introduction; cumulative sales of 4K UHD displays are forecast to hit 18.6 million units, while sales of HDTVs reached 4.2 million units in their first three years on the market. CTA projects shipments of 4K UHD displays to reach 15.6 million units in 2017 (51% increase) and earn $14.6bn in revenue (38% increase).

  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): Among the tech sector’s overwhelming leaders in YOY growth in 2017, VR headset unit sales are projected to reach 2.5 million units (79% increase) and $660 million in revenues (43% increase). CTA’s AR/VR Working Group recently finalized a set of industry defintions to better explain the spectrum of experiences in this category.

  • Drones: Total drone sales are expected to reach new heights in 2017, topping 3.4 million units (40% increase) and $1bn in revenue for the first time (46% increase). CTA’s forecast also delineates U.S. drone sales for units below and above 250 grams, the FAA’s division for mandatory drone registration: Drones below 250 grams are expected to reach 2 million units, and drones above 250 grams will sell 1.3 million units.

  • Wearables: Again driven by the popularity of fitness activity trackers, the total wearables market in 2017 – including other health and fitness devices, hearables and smartwatches – is expected to reach 48 million unit sales (14% increase) and earn $5.5bn in revenue (3% increase).