May 16, 2022

New Survey Findings Show Over Half of Americans Have Watched TV Shows Via “Streaming”

Make sure to note the numbers at the end of this post about the other things viewers do while watching streaming video.

From The Harris Poll:

Over half of Americans (53%) indicate having watched digitally streamed TV programming on any device, and streaming is well on its way to becoming a dominant means of viewership among 18-35 year olds, nearly tying top-ranked live feed TV (as it airs) as the way or among the ways they most often watch TV programming (44% live feed TV, 41% streaming).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,343 adults surveyed online between October 10 and 15, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

Despite U.S. adults – particularly those 35 and under – clearly seeing streaming as a viable viewing option, our TV screens are far from endangered:  when asked to select the way or ways in which they most often watch television programs, roughly nine in ten Americans (89%) point to their TV sets, sans streaming.

Though they are watching television programming on a TV screen, whether over the air or through cable or satellite providers, American are far from unanimous on how they do so:  while over half (56%) identify a live feed as the way, or one of the ways, they most often watch TV programs, roughly three in ten each specify watching recorded (32%) or cable- or satellite-provided on-demand (29%) programming.

As for streaming – while it may not be overtaking traditional TV viewership methods today, it is by no means an afterthought:  a combined three in ten Americans (30%) have the ability to watch streamed programming on their TV sets (19% via set top boxes or game systems, 17% via Internet-compatible TV sets), and two in ten (20%) list streaming – on any device – as among the ways they most often watch TV programs.

Additionally, there is cause to expect growth in the streaming of TV content:  two in ten Americans indicate that they are watching more online/streaming TV content now than a year ago (20%) and that that they expect to be watching more a year from now (19%).  And among those not watching more when compared to a year ago, roughly six in ten (59%) indicate that there are factors which could encourage them to watch more online/streaming TV programming; top factors include improved free streaming options (31%), access to programming they currently cannot (or don’t think they can) get via streaming (20%), not having to watch on a computer screen (19%), access to a sufficiently fast connection (17%) and ease of access (17%).

Americans living in households with children appear to be an especially strong market for TV streaming.  Those with children in their households are more likely than those without to:

  • own many of the streaming compatible devices asked about:have ever watched streamed TV programs (60% with vs. 49% without);
    • Smartphone (62% among those with children in their households vs. 40% among those without),
    • TV with Internet access (either natively or via a box or game system; 38% with vs. 27% without),
    • Tablet (31% with vs. 21% without);
    • report watching more (24% with vs. 18% without) or the same amount (44% with vs. 36% without) of online or streaming TV content than a year ago; and,
    • anticipate watching more (27% with vs. 15% without) online/streaming TV content a year from now.

Regardless of how Americans watch TV programs,  few are only watching: roughly eight in ten (81%) report doing other things while watching TV.  More specifically, nearly two-thirds (65%) engage in online activities; over one-third (37%) read a book, magazine or newspaper, with an additional 11% reading a book on an electronic reading device; roughly one-third (35%) text and one-fourth (25%) do other things.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.