Viewers of streaming services and pay TV are both avid channel surfers, according to new streaming service surfing research from Altman Vilandrie & Company.

According to the study, 64% of viewers 55 and older choose pay TV, while 66% of younger viewers (18-34) choose streaming services for channel or program surfing. The younger viewers have propelled streaming services (51%) to a slight majority lead over pay TV (49%) for the preferred program surfing medium.

More than half (53%) of pay TV subscribers indicated they continue to subscribe to pay TV because, they said, “it’s easier to find something to watch” than online video. Also known as the “lean-back” factor, this ease of viewing was the third highest rated rationale for pay TV subscription. The ability to watch news programs when they first broadcast ranked first (57%), ahead of “live news and sports” (54% for younger viewers, 52% for older ones).

“The fact that more people now program surf online reflects the sea change in the TV industry,” said Altman Vilandrie & Company Principal Matt Rivet, in a prepared statement. “While this is good news for streaming services, the networks and pay TV still have content that viewers want, including live news and sports and scripted shows. Pay TV providers still have a built-in advantage of being easier to use and more familiar to most consumers.”

Among the survey’s other findings were differences in “must have” programming:

  • Youngest viewers’ (18-24) “must-have” programs included scripted horror shows (7 programs) and animated comedies (6), with “Stranger Things” and “American Horror Story” leading the way.
  • Millennial viewers (25-34) had varied “must have” programs, with some live news and sports and network dramas in the top 15. “Stranger Things” was the top program, with NFL programming ranked second.
  • Older viewers (35-plus) “must-have” programs were live sports (4), live news/weather (3), and scripted network dramas (6).

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