Video Continues to Drive Broadband Usage

Nielsen recently published some statistics about the way that we watch video that shows a continuing trend of migration from traditional video to watching video online.

One of the most striking statistics is the total volume of online video. December 2021 saw an aggregate of 183 billion minutes of online video viewing. And even that number is likely small since there are many uses of video on the web that are not likely counted in the total. The prior largest months for video volumes was 178 billion minutes in November 2021 and 160 billion minutes in March 2020, the first month of the pandemic.

Here is a comparison of the video usage by category. Cable means video delivered by a wired cable provider or from a satellite service like DirecTV. Streaming is all sources of online content like Netflix. Broadcast is watching video using an antenna. Other is an all-inclusive category that includes things like gaming, DVDs, and video on demand.

May 2021 Dec 2021
Cable 39% 37%
Streaming 26% 28%
Broadcast 25% 26%
Other 9% 9%

Nielsen has been tracking these numbers for many years. There has been a steady migration from traditional cable viewing to both streaming and broadcast viewing as millions of homes are dropping traditional cable each year. The other category has also been growing, fueled by the explosive growth of online gaming.

Nielsen also reported on the market share of each of the major online video services. The following percentages represent the share that each service has of all online video content. It’s impressive to see that 6.4% of all video content is delivered by Netflix. It’s also impressive to see Disney+ grow so large after having just launched at the end of 2019.

Netflix 6.4%
YouTube 5.8%
Hulu 3.0%
Prime Video 2.1%
Disney+ 1.6%
All Other 8.8%

The reason I’m writing about this topic is a reminder of how many minutes of video usage are still carried by traditional cable TV and by broadband TV. In December there were 242 billion minutes of content delivered by traditional cable TV and another 170 billion minutes delivered by broadcast using antennas. Over time, more and more of these minutes are going to migrate online and is one of the primary driving factors behind the continued explosive growth where broadband networks have been seeing a doubling of overall bandwidth used about every three years. The trends identified by Nielsen mean that ISPs can’t expect any break in that growth for the foreseeable future, likely well into the next decade.

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