Streaming services trump free-to-air for first time, new study shows

Australians’ consumption of online subscription services such as Netflix and Stan have surpassed that of free-to-air linear television for the first time.

The research commissioned by the federal Department of Communications and conducted by the Social Research Centre, found that 62% of Australian adults reported watching screen content on an online subscription service in 2021, compared to 60% in 2020, while 58% aid they viewed linear commercial free-to-air television at some point in 2021, down from 61% in the previous year.

79% of Australian adults have access to at least one video streaming subscription service in their household in 2021, compared to 77% in 2020, with Netflix the clear market leader, with 67% reporting they had a Netflix subscription in their household.

Free-to-air television, however, still remains the most popular source for viewing news (59%) and sports (67%).

An increased proportion of respondents reported that their household has access to the Disney+ (27% in 2021, 18% in 2020), Stan (26% in 2021, 21% in 2020), Amazon Prime Video (22% in 2021, 16% in 2020), Kayo (11% in 2021, 7% in 2020), Apple TV+ (11% in 2021, 9% in 2020), and Binge (9% in 2021, 4% in 2020) streaming services in 2021 compared to 2020.

Viewers of online subscription services were most likely to rate “the ability to watch what I want, when I want” (89%) and that there are “no advertisements” (76%) as an essential or a main reason to watch these services. The least important attributes were news and sporting content.

In addition, viewers of free-to-air television were most likely to rate that it is “easy to access” (69%) and that it has “national or international news” (66%) as an essential or main reason for watching this service. The least important reasons were sporting content and picture quality.

Australians aged 55 and older were more likely to consume news via commercial free-to-air television (72%), publicly owned free-to-air television (60%) and radio (57%).

However, Australians aged 34 and under were more likely to consume news via social media (56%) and news websites or apps (53%).

Meanwhile, Australians living in regional areas were more likely to watch commercial free-to-air television (62%), listen to the radio (47% but down from 56% in 2020) and read local print newspapers (21% but down from 28% in 2020).

A total of 4,135 surveys were completed via online and telephone surveys using the Social Research Centre’s national probability-based online panel – Life in Australia. The 2021 report was conducted from 14 September to 5 October 2021.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.