Perspectives - Embracing Change (Spring 2024)

Section 2: Connected Audiences

Where – and how – are audiences watching content?

By: Nicole Matiation
Senior Lead AV Production, Nordicity

Audiences appear to be in the driver’s seat, able to pick and choose what, where, when, and how they watch.

According to Statista, Canadians aged 16- to 64-years-old spend an average of six hours and 18 minutes daily using the internet through computers, tablets, and mobile phones—and just under half of that time is spent on mobile phones (chart 2.1) 1. Overarching patterns are similar for both Anglophone and Francophone audiences.

P2 EN Chart 2 1

The youngest cohorts (16- to 34-years-old) are the most active online 2, engaging with social media, messaging friends, seeking information, gaming, and watching audiovisual content 3.

While audiences engage with content on a variety of devices, television sets remain widespread. In April 2023, Media Technology Monitor (MTM) reported that 91 per cent of Canadian households own a TV, a figure that has not changed significantly in the past decade.

What has changed is the connectivity of TV sets.

Looking at smart TVs and streaming devices combined, the percentage of Anglophone households connecting their television in some way rose 16 percentage points, from 73.3 per cent in 2020 to 89.7 per cent in 2023. The increase among Francophone households was even higher, growing from 55.3 per cent in 2020 to 73.5 per cent in 2023 (chart 2.2)4.

P2 EN Chart 2 2

Other measures vary across the two language groups, with Francophones reporting less time online. Mobile use by 16- to 24-year-old Anglophones is also slightly higher (at four hours and 14 minutes per day) than for Francophones (three hours and 33 minutes per day), for example.

Understanding where and how to reach each audience segment can support efforts to promote programming.

Linear TV still standing

Critical to streamers and broadcasters, Canadian audiences in both Anglophone and Francophone markets spend an average of three hours and 25 minutes per day watching streaming and linear TV combined, as demonstrated by Global Web Index (GWI) survey data (chart 2.3) 5.

P2 EN Chart 2 3

This behaviour may contribute to continued investment in linear TV advertising, even as advertisers increase their spend on digital advertising.

Younger audiences average three hours and 16 minutes, while 55- to 64-year-olds reported watching more than three hours and 30 minutes.

Older audiences watch the most linear TV, with an average of at least two hours beginning at age 25 in the Francophone market, and at age 35 in the Anglophone market.

What is striking is that even the youngest cohort in both language markets still watch about 90 minutes of linear TV per day. Streamers and tech companies interested in “winning the living room” would appear to have a cross-generational play.

Streamers battle for the living room

GWI also found that, for all age groups over 25 and in both language markets in 2023, the most common type of digital content purchased in the past month is subscriptions to a streaming service (chart 2.4).

P2 EN Chart 2 4

YouTube was the top streaming service used in the past month by 71.7 per cent of Anglophones aged 16 to 24, with Netflix close behind at 70 per cent (chart 2.5). Both platforms were well ahead of other services, which fell under 50 per cent.

P2 EN Chart 2 5

For all other age categories in both language markets, YouTube came second place.

The Anglophone 35- to 44-year-old cohort presented other interesting differences as well: smaller gaps between the first four preferred services, and the only age group reporting all three YouTube services—YouTube, YouTube Premium, and YouTube Kids—in their top 10.

Among Anglophones aged 45- to 64-years-old, the free, ad-supported television (FAST) channel Pluto TV made the top 10.

While audiences have access to Canadian content via Netflix and YouTube, the data showed they also choose to watch Canadian streaming services.

Crave was in the top 10 services across all age categories, with CBC Gem a close 11th among Anglophones 25 to 34 years old, and firmly part of the top streaming services for 35- to 64-year-olds. and Crave also appeared across all age categories of the Francophone market and, interestingly, Francophones aged 55 to 64 years old included CBC Gem in their top 10 services. The higher number of Canadian-owned services in the Francophone market may be tied both to a desire for content in French, as well as to watch original Canadian content made locally.

As the leading streaming service across most age groups in Canada, Statista estimates that Netflix had 19.3 million Canadian subscribers in 2023 6. YouTube, while using different metrics, enjoys a strong level of engagement in Canada also.

According to Comscore, YouTube reaches 98 per cent of Canadians across all audiences, making it the number one ad-supported video platform in the country. For the past five years, connected TV has become the fastest-growing platform for YouTube in Canada, with more than 17 million people accessing it on their television in 2023. In addition, 60 per cent of YouTube watch time on connected TV is now spent on content that is 21 minutes or longer 7.

This data suggests that audiences are interested in using YouTube to view content on a larger screen, likely in a space shared with others, which traditionally has been the domain of streamers and broadcasters.

Second-screen engagement

Audience use of second screens while streaming or watching live TV is instructive for producers and distributors looking to incorporate it into content marketing campaigns. Chart 2.6 shows how Canadians used their second screen while watching media in 2023, as reported by GWI.

P2 EN Chart 2 6

Anglophones and Francophones across all age categories reported that they most often use their second screen to chat and message with friends, and those aged 16 to 44 do so at a much higher rate (50 to 62 per cent). Anglophones and Francophones over 45, however, are more likely to use their second screen to read emails (more than 50 per cent).

The second most frequent use for second screens is social media, reported roughly half of 16- to 44-year-olds, 45 per cent of 45- to 54-year-olds, and 34 per cent of 55- to 64-year-olds.

The use of second screens “to engage with content online” and/or “to share my opinion of a TV show” is well below 15 per cent in all age groups.

Leveraging social media to support “word-of-mouth” promotion of content via social media itself and through messaging with family and friends would appear to represent a sweet spot for reaching audiences.

The new key metric: audience attention

While more audience data is being collected than ever before, standards of measurement have not been established even across digital distribution platforms of similar scale and scope.

With streamers shifting focus to profitability, they share information about their capacity to hold audiences’ attention. Ad agencies are interested not only in audience size (subscriptions), but in the level of activity or engagement (hours viewed).

In 2023, Netflix released its first bi-annual Global Engagement Report using its own hours viewed metric and building upon the pre-existing top-10 viewed titles by country, and by week. The report covers more than 18,000 titles, which encompasses 99 per cent of all viewing on Netflix (only titles watched for over 55,000 hours are included) and represents some 100 billion hours.

Earlier this year, when YouTube announced it had reached 8 million subscribers to YouTube TV worldwide, it also stated that viewing of YouTube content on TV screens averages one billion hours daily.

The figures released by Netflix and YouTube are designed to impress investors, but the detail that could help producers (and competing streaming and broadcasting services) better understand audience behaviour is scarce. In a highly competitive direct-to-consumer, connected marketplace, tech giants and streaming services are tracking audience behaviour across multiple metrics that include data collected through subscriptions, and viewer interaction with ads and shows. So, while audiences may have the choice of where, when, and what to watch; those choices become data that is ultimately used to predict, and to influence future activity. Connected TV, coupled with anticipated regulatory changes may provide Canadian broadcasters with an opportunity to actively pursue a direct-to-consumer model providing more targeted opportunities for programming content to an ever-more diverse group of consumers. Producers, also hungry for audience data, will likely remain confined to publicly available sources, but may do well to follow viewing trends across age cohorts, language and community groups and countries. So, while content is still king, data is the new currency.


  1. Daily time spent using the internet in Canada as of third quarter 2023, by device” (Statista).
  2. PCs/laptops, mobile, streaming, and social media combined, according to the GWI terminology
  3. GWI
  4. GWI: Smart Tv and Streaming Stick/Device use 2020 to 2023
  1. Value calculated by taking the averages of hours spent streaming and watching linear TV across each age group, as seen in the chart “Average Daily Time Spent on Digital Media by Respondents in 2023 (in minutes)”. Data includes both the Anglophone and Francophone markets.
  2. “Number of Netflix viewers in Canada from 2017 to 2025” (Statista)
  3. YouTube Internal Data, December, 2022
  4. Figures represent averages of hours spent streaming and watching linear TV across each age group, which can be seen in the following chart. Data includes both the Anglophone and Francophone markets.