With the proliferation of connected TV (CTV), more and more viewers have made the TV screen their device of choice for all video. But a return to the TV screen is hardly a return to traditional media. In fact, it represents a dramatic change in how people view digital video.

In the U.S., 120 million viewers streamed YouTube on TVs in December 2020, and over 25% of logged-in U.S. YouTube CTV viewers watched content almost exclusively (>90%) on their TV screens.1


Google partnered with Talk Shoppe to conduct qualitative research in the spring of 2021, followed by quantitative research (an online survey of 2,000 video viewers). This research explored how and why people consume video on YouTube and competitive platforms, with a focus on connected TV consumption.

And these shifts have changed the definition of TV as we know it.

“I think my definition of TV has changed through the years. It used to only mean network television. Now it has expanded to mean all different kinds of content and entertainment, whether cable, video, podcasts, or whatever.” — Rita B.

Primetime is personal

It’s clear that part of the draw of connected TV is the same as what attracts people to digital video in general: control and choice. These variables allow people to create their own personal viewing schedules and routines.

“Before I had internet-connected TV, my viewing experience never felt particularly tailored to me. If I could find something I could enjoy or learn from, I’d feel fortunate. Whereas now, with internet-connected TV, I can find exactly what I want whenever I want.” — Pablo K.

73% of people interviewed describe good content as something personal and relevant.2

“I find that I go through certain moods where I may really want to view something lighthearted vs. something serious. And I appreciate that now I can address those moods, because of on-demand services and streaming, and I’m not locked in to a particular network’s schedule.” — Rita B.

75% of those who watch YouTube on TV with others have created a routine around it.3

Re-creating the shared TV experience

Connected TV’s allure goes beyond the ability to create your own personal primetime. For many people, an important element is the ability to connect, whether it be to family, community, or culture.

“Growing up in an ethnic family in which English wasn’t our first language, it was harder or more expensive to get content in our own native language, Cantonese/Chinese in this case.” — Wayne L.

This idea of connection is what’s motivating a number of people to shift their YouTube viewing from phone or tablet to the TV.

“I have started watching YouTube on the TV with the shows my daughter likes. … I spend more time with her doing what she enjoys. It benefits us because some of the shows we watch are interactive and it’s bonding time for us, which I love.” — Courtney S.

79% of people interviewed say they achieve deeper connections when they watch YouTube with others.4

71% feel like they are opening themselves up to others when they watch YouTube on TV with them.5

“My husband retired last year right before the pandemic hit. We have watched a lot of online content about BBQ techniques [and] cooking ideas, and how-to videos on how to fix things ourselves. … [It] makes me feel more connected to others, as we have things to discuss, and this gives us the chance to get to know more about each other.” — Johnsa D.

Even YouTube creators are noticing an increase in viewing on TV screens. We spoke to six stars — who together have a combined subscriber base of over 20 million people worldwide — about the trend.

“I know some of our audience likes to watch our videos on the go, but I also know that we have a huge, growing demographic of people that save our videos until they get home from work, or until they really have a break to sit back, put the content on the TV, and enjoy it — which makes me so happy.” — Kelsey MacDermaid, The Sorry Girls

“It’s fun to think that people might watch my videos on a TV screen. I mean, the bigger the screen, the bigger the honor.” — Simone Giertz

Now, TV means video

As traditional linear TV is overtaken by smart TVs and other connected devices, the old distinctions between digital video, streaming, and TV are disappearing.

60% say their definition of TV includes streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.6

69% say YouTube is TV when viewed on their TVs.7

Only 15% say TV must be professionally produced.8

“For me, TV is any type of device, streaming service, [or] satellite or cable service — and let’s not forget the actual TV — that allows us to view and listen to shows and/or music.” — Carla J.

By Gina Shalavi

Video Marketing Manager, YouTube Ads


Designer: Kate McManus; Editor: Ken Wheaton; Product Lead: Casey Fictum; Production Lead: Jenny Maughan.


YouTube Internal Data, U.S., Dec. 2020.
Google/Talk Shoppe, U.S., Why Video on TV, n=2,000 A18–64, April 2021.
Google/Talk Shoppe, U.S., Why Video on TV, n=140 A18–64 who say they watch YouTube on TV, April 2021.
Google/Talk Shoppe, U.S., Why Video on TV, n=2,000 A18–64, April 2021.
Google/Talk Shoppe, U.S., Why Video on TV, n=526 A18–64 YouTube on TV viewers, April 2021.
Google/Talk Shoppe, U.S., Why Video on TV, n=2,000 A18–64, April 2021.