Roku/Harris Study Reveals Americans Prefer Streaming/OTT vs Cable

The media industry has not remained untouched during the pandemic. With more Americans staying put, the entertainment industry landscape has shifted toward on-demand, at-home content – perhaps for good. This explains why more and more, Americans prefer streaming over other means of content consumption.

Roku and The Harris Poll on Media Play News recently released interesting new research findings about content viewing habits and TV streaming during the pandemic. Their research found that 85% of their 2,000 American adult respondents stream video and prefer over-the-top (OTT) media over cable. This information provides valuable insights to advertisers, media industry players, and businesses watching the entertainment world shift before their eyes.

We’ll explore some of the findings from this research and our own research about TV viewing habits and content consumption during the pandemic in this blog.

Streaming: the preferred method of pandemic media consumption

Over the past few months, we surveyed over 600 Americans to learn how the pandemic affects content consumption.  Similar to the findings from Roku and The Harris Poll research, we found that most Americans have increased their content consumption overall during the pandemic, particularly through streaming. In fact, 71% of Americans say they are watching MORE content than they did before the virus hit. Another 67% prefer streaming over other methods to watch content at home.

We learned that participants preferred streaming over other viewing mediums for a few key reasons:

  • VALUE – Americans perceive streaming as a more cost-effective option than cable.
    • “I love to binge watch tv shows and scary movies so it’s much more entertaining this way and oh so much cheaper.”
  • CONTENT – Americans like exclusive or original programming provided by streaming services.
    • It has new and original programming that I haven’t seen before. I like to be able to binge-watch a series and get really involved in the show from beginning to end.”
  • VARIETY – Americans like to have a wide selection of content.
    • “We like to have the option to choose from a broad variety of movies and series.”
    • “Because there is more variety. My cable subscription is the bare minimum.”
  • AVAILABILITY – Americans like to be able to watch what they want when they want it.
    • “Because it has whatever I want to watch available whenever and where ever I want to watch.”
    • “I can watch what I want at any time I want and as much as I want.”

Age demographics determine viewing habits

Like Roku and The Harris Poll, we found a correlation between age and the likelihood of streaming in our research.

Our research found that younger Americans, particularly those 25 and under, prefer streaming at a much higher rate. This is not to say that streaming isn’t extremely popular among older Americans as well. Streaming is popular among ALL Americans, regardless of age. Interestingly, while younger Americans tend to gravitate towards streaming they consume more TV shows via cable since Covid-19 started.

americans prefer streaming tv shows

Americans prefer streaming movies

Geographic Preferences


Preferred content source tends to differ by region, according to our research. The vast majority of Americans living in the West and Northeast prefer streaming. Streaming is also hugely popular in the South and Midwest, with more than half selecting it as their preference.

Americans prefer streaming map geographic streaming

However, the map flips when it comes to cable. Cable is a lot more popular with audiences in the Midwest and South.

where americans view cable geographic map

Americans living in the Midwest and South say they prefer cable because it is easier for them to use. They also like certain channels that play content they prefer like classic movies and reruns of old favorite TV shows.

Stay in-tune with rapidly changing viewing habits

With the popularity of streaming rising, it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse and listen to consumers. With the shift to streaming from traditional TV comes a change in the way advertising is conducted.

The best way to stay in-tune with industry shifts is by conducting reliable, in-depth research. Ideally, have a conversation with customers and understand why they prefer streaming and how they view advertising in streaming.

The Invoke advantage

Invoke’s platform makes it easy to look at data across different audiences. This helps us identify patterns in behaviors and enables us to dive deep not only into WHAT our respondents are saying, but WHY they are saying it.

Through Invoke, you can have a conversation with hundreds of consumers and shape the discussion according to what you learn right there and then.

Interested in learning more? Check out our recent study to take a deeper dive into American viewing habits during the pandemic.

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