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TV-Connected Devices Pave the Way for New Ways to Watch Content

4 minute read | March 2017

With 80% of U.S. households having broadband internet, the popularity of TV-connected devices such as Roku (box and stick), Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV and Google Chromecast, as well as game consoles, is growing. The penetration of these devices is increasing as is the time spent using them. This combination is having a meaningful impact on how people view and engage with content on the TV set, and is consequently changing the ways in which media companies provide services.

While Nielsen has long captured usage of all devices connected to the TV, it’s now capable of providing more granular insights into which brands of TV-connected devices people own and use to stream video content to their TV set. These devices, when coupled with streaming video services, provide consumers with a new method to watch video on their television sets.

Penetration of TV-Connected Devices in the Home

Nielsen conducted an analysis to determine how many U.S. homes own various devices and how data has trended over time. Today, just over 23% of TV homes own a digital streaming device such as an Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast or Roku, up from 19% in June 2016. So which brands are the most popular? Roku and Apple TV have the highest household penetration, followed by Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast. In addition to the four brand-specific devices, nearly 11% of homes have streaming players from other brands and PC/tablets/smartphones connected to their television sets.

Enabled smart TVs function like multimedia devices that are built into the television sets, and they can be found in 29% of all U.S. TV homes, up from 22% in January 2016. These television sets are connected to broadband connections, which has opened the streaming video content world to many more people.

When it comes to video game consoles, penetration has remained flat on a year-over-year basis, with 42% of homes owning a Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Wii or Sony PlayStation. The major device brands (including older and newer generation platforms) have similar levels of household penetration.

Reach, Frequency and Daily Usage

In addition to measuring device ownership, Nielsen looked at how long users are engaging with these devices. In January 2017, 18%, or 21 million homes, used an Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Chromecast or Roku for an average of almost 15 days a month. What’s even more noteworthy is that on the days that these devices were used, viewers in these homes spent more than three-and-a-half hours using them.

Consumers use other multimedia devices less frequently than the four brand-specific devices. In January 2017, consumers used other devices an average of 11 days and they used them for two hours on the days they tuned in.

Because smart TVs have built-in broadband capabilities, they are used most across devices. In January 2017, households used smart TV apps more than 20 days out of the month, and on average, they spent more than two hours per usage day tuned in to them.

Video game consoles, including Microsoft Xbox, Nintendo Wii or Sony PlayStation, were used by the greatest number of homes: 31%, or almost 37 million households. On the days when a home uses its video game consoles they use it for a considerable amount of time. In January 2017, households used their video game consoles to play games/stream video for over 15 days, and used the devices for gaming and/or streaming for more than four hours per usage day.

While consumers increasingly watch content on different devices and platforms, the TV set remains the overwhelmingly first choice among consumers. And TV-connected devices represent a new and growing way to bring content to the TV set. Accordingly, traditional media companies as well as established streaming players are all developing “over-the-top” products to take advantage of these devices and to continue to provide content in ways that meet consumers’ needs.


  • Nielsen National TV Panel based on the month of January 2017 (Dec. 26, 2016-Jan. 29, 2017). Penetration estimates based on Jan. 31, 2017.
  • Data for brand specific multimedia devices was derived from older and newer generations of Roku boxes and sticks, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, etc.
  • Data for brand specific video game consoles take into account older and newer generation platforms such as Microsoft Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One; Sony PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4; and Nintendo Wii and Wii U.

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