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'Big 5' Video Streaming Services All Grew From Jan. to April

The five most popular streaming services accounted for over 80% of all streaming activity on connected TVs in April, according to research firm comScore.

After jumping in March following the arrival of COVID-19 lockdowns, U.S. streaming activity largely held steady over the next two months, according to a new report from research firm comScore.

In its 2020 State of OTT report, which was released on Wednesday, comScore estimated that average daily streaming hours in the U.S. rose more than 25% from early March to early April, hitting a high of slightly more than 300 million hours before plateauing. The growth was driven both by an increase in the number of streaming households per day, which rose to around 50 million, and in daily streaming hours per household, which rose to around six hours.

Zeroing in on over-the-top (OTT) streaming activity via connected TV devices such as streaming sticks and smart TVs, comScore estimated 6.8 billion hours of monthly viewing took place on average from February to April, up from 5.4 billion a year earlier. OTT viewing households per month grew to 70.2 million from 64 million.

The five most popular streaming services -- Netflix , Alphabet’s  (GOOG) - Get Report YouTube, Amazon.com’s  (AMZN) - Get Report Prime Video and Disney’s  (DIS) - Get Report Hulu and Disney+ -- collectively accounted for 82.5% of all U.S. OTT streaming hours in April, per comScore. The firm estimated that each service’s U.S. reach among OTT households grew from January to April, with growth ranging from 6% (Netflix) to 17% (Hulu).

All of the top-5 streaming services saw U.S. viewer growth from January to April. Source: comScore.

All of the top-5 streaming services saw U.S. viewer growth from January to April. Source: comScore.

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Traditional live TV viewing has also seen an uptick in recent months, with comScore estimating that average monthly viewing rose by about 700 million hours in the February-April period to 26.7 billion hours. However, with cord-cutting continuing -- and perhaps accelerating thanks to the absence of live sports -- comScore thinks live TV viewing households per month fell by 1.2 million hours to 107.8 million.

The firm now believes only 58% of households using connected TV devices have a cable or satellite subscription, down from 64% a year ago. On the other hand, it thinks internet TV services such as YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV, saw 70% annual growth in the February-April period.

One clear positive for Roku  (ROKU) - Get Report: U.S. adoption rates for both streaming boxes/sticks and smart TVs continue growing at a healthy clip. comScore estimates 57% of U.S. households with Wi-Fi had a streaming box or stick as of April, up from 50% in April 2019 and 47% in April 2018. Smart TV adoption was pegged at 51%, up from 43% in April 2019 and 37% in April 2018.

Thanks to both higher penetration rates and more viewing per device, streaming boxes/sticks and smart TVs now collectively account for a majority of all data consumption within U.S. homes with Wi-Fi. Of the 235GB of data that comScore believes the average home with Wi-Fi consumed in April, streaming boxes/sticks accounted for 83 billion (up 35% annually) and smart TVs accounted for 49 billion (up 45%).

However, in spite of such heady growth, OTT viewing is still only equal to about a quarter of live TV viewing, and (after also accounting for DVR viewing video-on-demand services) less than a fifth of total video viewing on TVs. That leaves plenty of room for additional growth.

Disney, Amazon, and Alphabet are holdings in Jim Cramer’s Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells these stocks? Learn more now.