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The Impact of Online Streaming on Primetime Viewership An Econometric Analysis of Technological Change, Network Practices and Audience Behavior

By Yeshwanth Kandimalla

This study considers the impact of online streaming on the viewership of popular primetime programs aired on four major U.S broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC. The time period considered will begin with the 2004-2005 TV season through the 2011-2012 season. Technological change, primarily with faster Internet speeds, spurred some growth of online video streaming. Furthermore, over this time period, the four major networks all authorized streaming at different levels. This variation in availability provides the heterogeneity needed to compare the effect of making programs available
online. The existing literature has posited two effects of online streaming: substitution away from traditional TV viewing due to lower costs or complementarity by drawing in additional viewers. Using this framework, this study conducts an empirical analysis of TV viewership and online availability with a panel of more than 3,500 episodes across 8 seasons and 42 programs. The results strongly suggest that online streaming options drive statistically significant substitution away from traditional TV viewing, a trend that can have major consequences for the distribution of TV programs and the broadcast TV business as a whole.

Honors Thesis

Data Set

Advisor: Michael Munger, Michelle Connolly | JEL Codes: D12, D22, L82 | Tagged: Big Four, Cable Cord-cutting, FOX, Hulu, Network Television, Networks, Online Streaming

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Jennifer Becker
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Michelle P. Connolly
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