Where do the most people go for TV online? YouTube

A Magid survey found more people report going to Google's video site to watch television shows than Netflix or Hulu.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

More people site YouTube for where they watch TV than Netflix or Hulu in a recent Magid study. YouTube

Netflix calls itself the world's leading Internet television network, but as is often the case, who's leading really depends on whom you ask.

Frank N. Magid Associates, a research and consulting firm, asked 2,400 people to check off a list of online sources they use to watch TV shows, and found the most common response -- with 38 percent of respondents -- was YouTube.

That compares with 33 percent who listed Netflix, 17 percent for Hulu, and 14 percent for Amazon Prime, according to data from a June survey released exclusively to CNET by Magid.

(Note that doesn't mean that the time spent watching TV on Google's massive site necessarily exceeds time spent on any of those other services.)

"The joke in the industry is it's all babies burping and cats meowing, and maybe YouTube was that," said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors. "When they actually go and use it, people are surprised by the breadth of content that's there."

Online television viewing is growing -- the number of people who say they watch video online daily jumped 10 points to 32 percent in two years, according to Magid. The services with the most eyeballs will have the best shot not only at cashing in on new status quos for watching video, either through advertising or subscriptions, but also at getting the most coveted content to bring to viewers.

Vorhaus also noted a trend of consolidation in how consumers approach online video, with "the big guys getting bigger and not many new guys coming in."

In rankings for the sources people turn to for TV and movies, iTunes came in relatively low for both: seventh for movies and eighth for TV, despite the platform's massive reach -- Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook earlier this month touted the platform's more than 500 million customers when the company released U2's new album to all of them free of charge.

But cost is likely a factor in iTunes' low stature in the survey responses, Vorhaus said. Sites like YouTube and Hulu are free with advertising, and Netflix and Amazon Prime are inexpensive subscriptions given the amount of content and services they deliver. Under iTunes' model of selling and renting shows and movies individually, the costs of watching video there can add up quickly.

Respondents of the Magid survey also called out YouTube as a top source for viewing movies, with 24 percent of those surveyed saying they go there for film. Netflix was No. 1, at 35 percent, with Amazon Prime, Hulu, and HBO Go trailing YouTube.

"If you think of these services as brands, the brand of YouTube has the most people," Vorhaus said. "The big message I get is that people have changed their brand perception of YouTube."

That change, from a Google point of view, is one in the right direction. And the company's announcement last week that it would start "="" to="" stay="" there"="" shortcode="link" asset-type="article" uuid="47646a88-2ff7-4690-9f27-dce76edf6b8c" slug="googles-youtube-investing-in-its-own-stars" link-text="paying its " section="news" title="Google's YouTube investing in its own stars" edition="us" data-key="link_bulk_key" api="{"id":"47646a88-2ff7-4690-9f27-dce76edf6b8c","slug":"googles-youtube-investing-in-its-own-stars","contentType":null,"edition":"us","topic":{"slug":"tech-industry"},"metaData":{"typeTitle":null,"hubTopicPathString":"Tech Industry","reviewType":null},"section":"news"}"> takes on a whole new light.