With Nearly 40,000 Streaming Channels We’re Absolutely Overwhelmed by Content





Young couple sitting on a sofa watching scary movie on tv

It used to be that you would sit back and turn on Netflix, only to scroll through a seemingly endless grid of shows and movies (My former colleague Mark Serrels describes the doomscrolling habit here well). But nowadays, with the explosion of free ad-supported platforms, we’re not just scrolling through shows and movies, but whole channels filled with their own lineup of different shows and movies.

Just how many are out there? Research firm Nielsen conducted the tally and found 39,550 distinct streaming channels (and 167 catalogs) for audiences in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Mexico and Germany as of June.

39,550. That’s a mind-blowing number.

That expansion has been fueled by free ad-supported streaming platforms like Pluto TV or Tubi, platforms that offer a mix of live and on-demand content. The ease in which they can create a channel — one dedicated to Gunsmoke or Antiques Road Trip — means a nearly endless possibility to create new ones based on highly targeted. Are you a fan of Fear Factor? There’s a dedicated channel on DistroTV. A Gordon Ramsey channel is available on FOX-owned Tubi.

Chart that shows the number of streaming channels.

Granted, you’re not going to find every channel on a single platform, but the sheer volume of content available on even a single service is already overwhelming. My colleague Luke Bouma noted yesterday that there are more than 2.7 million video titles to choose from. You would need several lifetimes — and a lot of snacks — to get through that amount of content.

Nielsen’s report spells out this struggle well. It found that a fifth of respondents to its survey said they didn’t know what to watch beforehand and couldn’t find something while scrolling — so they gave up and moved on.

“The expanding streaming landscape has become overwhelming for viewers,” the report said. “It’s taking longer for viewers to find content they’re interested in, and audiences know that if they don’t see something they like, a different option is just a click away.”

Viewers spend an average of 10 and a half minutes trying to find something, compared with the less than 7 and a half minutes spent in 2019, according to Nielsen.

This isn’t a trend that’s expected to slow down — companies are seeing the migration to these platforms and are investing in them. Google added more than 25 channels to its Google TV platform last week. TCL launched its own free streaming service with more than 200 live channels.

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