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Among active users, Netflix takes the platform crown, but ad-friendly TikTok, Hulu, and YouTube have better outlooks

  • Netflix will remain on top despite a shaky 2023. Netflix is the only brand that claims at least an hour of time per day from its active users, but its time spent will decline by 1 minute this year. We expect Netflix’s new ad-supported subscribers to watch the service somewhat less than the cohort paying full price. The same story will play out with Disney+: We expect its time spent to decline by 1.0% this year thanks to its less-engaged ad-supported viewers.
  • Estimates for Hulu and the other sub OTT services were not affected by the writers strike. The ongoing strike by the Writers Guild of America negatively affected our time spent with TV forecast, but we don’t expect consequences for streaming services unless the strike drags on for many more months. This is good news for Hulu, the sub OTT platform most deeply engaged with marketers and advertising. Time spent with Hulu will increase by 1 minute this year.
  • TikTok and YouTube are in a close fight for short- and medium-length video viewing time. TikTok’s users (0:54) will remain more engaged than YouTube’s (0:49), although YouTube’s user base will remain far larger. Among the population as a whole, YouTube will claim 34 minutes per person per day, while TikTok will take just 17 minutes. Both platforms will increase their time spent metrics by 2 to 3 minutes this year, a feat that only Instagram will match among the competitors in the chart below. Most other services will be relatively stagnant.

What does it all mean?The most popular individual media service in the US, Netflix, has a limited ad inventory, and several other major time-takers, like Spotify, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, are also semi-closed systems. Digital marketers understandably train most of their attention on social media, Hulu, and YouTube, but there’s an intriguing disconnect between the attention Meta’s properties receive and the reality of user time spent. Instagram and Facebook are only in the middle of the pack, but they’ll collectively claim 75.0% of social ad spending and nearly 20% of all digital advertising this year. This skew might be reasonable, but it might also suggest a reassessment is in order.