As I wrote in an earlier article, our media consumption has changed during the COVID pandemic due the amount of time spent at home and disruption to our former activities outside of home. With more time spent at home, we're spending more time watching screens -- 40% of Americans saying they're spending more time watching live TV and 37% saying they're spending more time watching on-demand (e.g., TV recordings, Netflix).
As we await the results of fall sweeps and social media chatters about The Queen's Gambit and The Crown, I want to dive a bit deeper into how and when we're watching.
TV Still Dominates ... But Cord Cutting Continues
The majority of Americans still watch traditional TV, especially in older age groups. Two-thirds of 18-34 year-olds watch traditional TV, which increases steadily with age to nearly nine in ten among 65+ year-olds.
Even with TV viewership up during COVID, the shift to streaming-only households continues, especially with consumers under 50 years-old. We see double-digit year-over-year growth in consumers who only stream video content.
Marketers should no longer be questioning the usefulness of TV and streaming these days. Instead, they should be asking, What should be my investment mix across the two and how can my brand be present on ad-free streaming platforms via sponsorship and/or product placement?
More People Streaming and More Time Spent Streaming
The streaming story is more complicated and interesting than just the slow march of cord cutting. The majority of Americans watch TV and the majority also stream video. The simple reality is consumers enjoy options! Streaming video appears to be approaching saturation among adults under 50 but is growing notably among adults 50+. Almost half of adults 65 and older are now streaming content.
Not only are more people streaming video, but we're spending more time watching streamed content. Compared to the same time last year, we're spending 12% more time -- or about an extra half-hour per week -- watching streamed content. This holds true among streamers across all age groups.
True be told, Netflix has spoiled us. We enjoy the flexibility to watch anything anytime (even when we're home all the time), and streaming services are investing a lot in bringing us content we want to watch. Access to the content we want, when we want it, is becoming an expectation and cost of entry vs. an opportunity to delight.
TV Anytime Becomes TV All the Time
Reduced commuting, working from home and a growing "on demand" mindset have led to shifts in when people are watching TV. Time spent watching early morning has declined (I hope because we're getting a little more sleep?) and primetime has softened slightly, but people are spending more time watching TV throughout most of the day and late night (so much for getting more sleep).
We see some nuances across age groups. Morning TV is down across all age groups except 65+, whose morning routines in retirement are unaffected by the shift to working from home instead of commuting to an office. Adults 18-34 have not shown the increases in time spent watching TV that we see in the other age groups. Adults 35-49 have increased time watching TV during the day and late night but watching slightly less in the evening (they may be watching streamed content instead). Adults 65+, already the heaviest TV watchers, have also increased daytime and late-night viewing.
Just as the impending demise of cookies is shifting our thinking back to contextual targeting for digital, video watching behaviors provoke us to think differently about reaching our audience. Could we find more efficient, effective solutions for reaching our audience if we think first about what kind of content they're watching instead of starting with which time/screen/app they use? Can we improve our ad effectiveness by creating content our audiences want to watch, wherever they watch it?
It's a challenging time for marketers, but up-to-date data is available and helps a lot. Contact me through firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested in seeing this data and more, broken out for your specific target audiences, brands, etc. I'm here to strategize and help.
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