Summertime streaming: Is summer the new season for OTT TV shows?

Jason_Friedlander_HeadshotBy Jason Friedlander, Sr. Director of Product Marketing

As the temperature rises, more Americans are choosing to beat the heat by streaming a new TV show. According to a 2017 study by the Video Advertising Bureau, summer is a popular time for viewers to catch up on broadcast content through subscription video on demand (SVoD) services like Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. Out of those surveyed, 87% said they planned to binge-watch three or more episodes in one sitting.

It’s likely that summer 2018 will be no different. With a full lineup of new TV arriving on over-the-top (OTT) streaming services this June, July, and August, viewers will no doubt be tuning in often. Here are some of the ways that TV viewing habits shift in the summertime.

OTT viewership surges in summer

Depending on your perspective, summer is either the best or worst time for TV viewership. According to the 2017 summer Nielsen ratings, 21 of the top 30 most-watched cable channels saw a major drop-off in viewership compared to the previous summer. This isn’t a new trend. As early as 2015, cable operators began noticing their summertime TV numbers sinking.

Meanwhile, OTT operators are seeing record numbers of viewers summer after summer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Why does this happen? Think of it as cable going on summer vacation.

A season for disruption

The hotter months have always been a time when Americans have more time to watch TV. Kids and college students are on vacation. And with more daylight hours, many working-age viewers choose to use that extra free time parked in front of the screen, catching up on their favorite shows before going to bed.

Believing they had a guaranteed viewership, traditional TV networks put very little effort into creating innovative summer TV. Cable channels, accustomed to skyrocketing summer ratings, barely put any effort into programming after Memorial Day. Instead, they typically offer their latest and greatest new shows in fall and spring, letting summer become rerun season. Their decision to disregard summer is not very appealing to viewers who are already cutting the cord in record numbers. Increasingly, cable viewers are turning to OTT TV in the summer and watching more of it than ever.

On OTT streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, however, summer TV viewers have their pick of dozens of high production value new shows filled with stars. From Dietland to Disenchantment, there are more than 30 brand new shows or seasons coming to major streaming services this summer. No matter what a viewer is interested in, there’s more than enough OTT TV to fill cable’s summer lull.

The appeal of binge-watching

Summertime TV viewers don’t just opt for streaming media over traditional video; they’re also watching record amounts of TV when they do. Summer has become the binge-watching season, which is typically defined as watching three or more episodes of a TV show in one sitting.

Additionally, SVoD services make binge-watching easier than ever. Gone are the days when viewers had to wait for, or record, a TV show they wanted to watch. Streaming services often release every episode of a season at once. It’s no surprise that a Deloitte study found that three-quarters of Americans (73%) confess to regular binge-watching.

When cable TV goes on summer break, it’s the perfect time for OTT streaming services to further disrupt the industry. The numbers prove that viewers are ready to watch, or even binge-watch, appealing new shows during summer. Now it’s up to SVoD services and other players to continue turning up the heat on traditional networks by offering new content all summer long.