As much as the battle against COVID-19 has been a physical fight, it’s also been a mental and emotional challenge for many Americans. Stuck inside, isolated from loved ones, and learning how to work from home or cope with unemployment, millions and millions of Americans turned to media consumption in response to the coronavirus.
In fact, Global Web Index reported that more than 80% of people in the U.S and UK began consuming more content since the COVID-19 outbreak began. This has given content creators, studios, advertisers, and brands an unprecedented opportunity to connect and engage with consumers.
Here’s a closer look at the pandemic’s impact on media consumption. How will the trends change when we leave COVID-19 behind?
Searching for COVID-19 Updates
Though technology habits tend to vary between age groups, there’s one activity that the Gen Z, Millennial, Gen X, and Boomer generations have in common: searching for COVID-19 updates online. On average, 68% of Americans report this as their main online activity, from 71% of millennials to 54% of boomers.
This makes sense, of course, since the path of the coronavirus pandemic directly influences life as we know it. However, younger media users tend to find their COVID-19 updates on social media while older consumers turn to news sites for their information.
Streaming Movies and Shows
Beyond the need for information is the intense need for entertainment, both to distract people from the chaos of the world and to pass time in quarantine. This explains why Netflix added 15.8 million new subscribers, more than double the 7.2 million they expected, in their first quarter of 2020.
Netflix isn’t alone, either. Other streaming giants such as Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, Apple, Comcast, and Hulu have also enjoyed a surge in customers as people look for new ways to spend their time in lockdown. Even cable news channels have seen their ratings double from March to April.
As explained by Alexia Quadrani, Head of U.S Media Equity Research, “OVerall, we have seen a 10-20% growth in ratings for a majority of broadcast shows, which is atypical this time of year. Ratings usually drop once Daylight Savings Time arrives, since people prefer to spend time outdoors.”
While streaming services and social media outlets are thriving, Hollywood flicks are suffering. Since movie theaters were forced to close their doors and move premiers were postponed across the board, movie studios released many films to DVD or video on demand immediately.
Though box office admissions rose nearly 3% in the third quarter of 2019, they plummeted more than 25% into the negative as the COVID-19 outbreak began.
“Most theaters make more than 90% of their gross revenue in the first six weeks [of a movie’s premier], and their biggest risk is consumers relying too heavily on streaming,”notes Quadrani. This is a frightening statistic for many theaters as COVID-19 creates the expectation that movies be released for streaming immediately.
The bottom line? Some of our COVID media consumption trends may continue after the pandemic ends, while others may force new routines into old patterns. Only time will tell!