Linear TV Viewing Falls Below 50% for the First Time as Streaming Hits a New Record

“Suits” and “Bluey” buoyed streaming views in July while cable and broadcast faltered

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Viewing of linear television fell below 50% for the first time in July as streaming viewing hit a new record, according to Nielsen.

Total broadcast viewing last month finished at 20% of TV, a new low for the category. On a year-over-year basis, broadcast usage was down 5.4%. Cable viewing slipped to 29.6% of viewing for July, with a year-over-year drop of 12.5%. The top-viewed cable programs of the month were the Home Run Derby and College World Series on ESPN, followed by Hallmark’s “When Calls the Heart.”

Streaming accounted for 38.7% of all TV viewing, a new record led by “Suits” — a red-hot licensed title that’s burning through views on Netflix and Peacock — and “Bluey,” which were the most-watched shows of the month on streaming. Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and YouTube all hit all-time highs for viewing last month according to Nielsen, bolstered by shows like “Jack Ryan,” “The Witcher” and “The Lincoln Lawyer.”

YouTube maintains the largest share of streaming TV usage with 9.2% of total usage (not counting YouTube TV), up 5.6% vs. June. Netflix accounted for 8.5% of usage in July, while Hulu and Prime Video followed with 3.6% and 3.4% respectively.

Sports is expected to bring linear TV’s numbers back up in the fall, but the ongoing double strike is already due to affect the launch of the fall TV season as broadcast networks have set “strike-proof” schedules that lean heavily on reality and competition programming. Case in point: CBS is filling Sunday nights with episodes of “Yellowstone,” Taylor Sheridan’s monumental Paramount Network hit that will be making its broadcast TV debut.