According to comScore, 5% of households in the United States with Wi-Fi internet streamed an online multichannel video service to their television screen in April 2018. That is up by over half in a year, but online virtual multichannel video programming distributors still represent a small but growing segment of the market.

The 5% of households includes those with services like Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, PlayStation Vue, fuboTV, and Philo. It does not include services like YouTube TV and Hulu Live, which also feature substantial elements of video on demand.

It amounts to 4.8 million households in the United States and represents a remarkable 58% increase on the year before.

Furthermore, online viewers are spending significantly more time watching these services. They comprised 10% of all time video streaming in April, an increase of 53% on the previous year.

They also spent substantially more time viewing online than other online video households, viewing for an average of 128 hours over the month, compared to the average of 54 hours for online video households. Considering that about half that time was spend viewing the virtual multichannel service, that still leaves 64 hours per month viewing other online video services, which is 20% higher than average.

“For networks, it’s important to understand that while their traditional linear audience is shifting, that doesn’t mean they have fewer viewers overall,” notes Susan Engleson, who is responsible for emerging products at comScore. “Their viewers are just watching in different places and it’s important to measure this consumption across platforms or distribution channels — including vMVPDs — to get the complete picture of audience behaviour.”

SlingTV and DIRECTV NOW, the online multichannel services of DISH Network and AT&T, have 2.34 million and 1.74 million subscribers respectively. They are ranked seventh and ninth among television services in the United States in the informitv Multiscreen Index.

By the end of 2018, comScore estimates that including Hulu and YouTube, which only launched their multichannel services in 2017, there could be seven million subscriptions to such services.

That is clearly a significant number, although it is still less than the number of telco television subscribers for Verizon and AT&T, which have 4.56 million and 3.66 million subscribers respectively.

Just as satellite supplemented cable, followed by telco services, online multichannel services simply represent the next generation of television distribution. The margins may be minimal but the cost of subscriber acquisition and equipment is much lower.

It is also important to remember that the top four traditional television services in the United States still have over 67 million subscribers between them, or nearly ten times more than the collective number of online multichannel subscribers, which have only around a fifth as many subscribers as the two main satellite services combined.