Internet playing even more dominant role in US entertainment consumption

Thursday, December 10th, 2020
Hub Entertainment Research logo

New Research From Hub Entertainment Research: As the Pandemic Persists, the Internet is Playing an Even More Dominant Role in How Americans Consume Entertainment

BOSTON — Hub’s “Predicting the Pandemic” research tracks the impact of the COVID crisis on consumers’ entertainment habits and preferences over time.

The second, just-released wave of the study shows how the pandemic has accelerated the already well-established shift to online consumption of entertainment content across multiple facets of the leisure economy.

As many Americans moved indoors for the fall, large proportions took the opportunity to reconfigure their TV service subscriptions.

  • Compared to July, consumers in November were significantly more likely to make changes to their TV service lineup:
    • One-third signed up for a new TV service, up 6 points from the summer.
    • Another 1 in 4 canceled a TV service, up 5 points.
    • All told, 40% made at least some change to their TV subscriptions in November, 9 points higher than in the summer.

The top four streaming services saw the strongest net increases among those who either added or dropped, by far.

  • Netflix and Disney+ were the most likely to see a net gain in November:
    • Half of those who made changes to their TV services added Netflix; one-third added Disney+.
    • Only single-digits dropped each of these services.
  • On the other hand, consumers were much more likely to drop a live TV service than to add one:
    • Half of those who made TV service changes dropped a live TV streaming service (like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or Sling TV).
    • One-third dropped a traditional cable, satellite, or telco TV subscription.
    • Fewer than 1 in 5 added either type of service.

As many Americans wrestle with pandemic-prompted financial concerns, use of free, ad-supported TV platforms (AVODs) has continued to accelerate, including the newly launched, free version of Peacock.

  • AVOD use has continued the upward trend we saw in the summer: the percent using each major service is up since July (and use in July was higher than February, before the start of the crisis).
  • Peacock, released to the general public in mid-July, has quickly become the third-most watched AVOD service, behind the Roku Channel and Tubi.

With many films skipping theatrical release due to COVID, consumer purchase of first-run movies from streaming platforms has jumped significantly.

  • One-fourth of all TV consumers in November say they’ve purchased a first-run movie from a streamer, up from fewer than 1 in 5 over the summer.

The growing reliance on all things digital has had an impact on more than just consumers’ use of TV streaming services.

  • Among those who currently own a Smart TV, 26% say they purchased their Smart TV during the pandemic—up a full 12 points from July.
  • In a new question added this wave, another 26% of Americans say they’ve made changes to their home during the pandemic—such as adding a media room or a home schooling space.

One area where we haven’t seen much movement—yet—is in consumers upgrading their internet service to manage greater bandwidth needs.

  • Although the percent saying they’ve upgraded their internet speed has inched up 3 points since July, only 12% have done so.

“If there were any doubts that some of the changes we’re seeing in leisure habits are here to stay, those doubts were erased when Warner Bros. announced that its entire slate of 2021 films would be released on HBO Max at the same time as theaters,” said Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study. “And with providers like Comcast deciding to impose data caps across its entire footprint as of January 1, it’s clear that many companies agree that streaming content is now the new normal.”

The data cited here come from the second wave of Hub’s “Predicting the Pandemic” study, conducted among 3,000 US consumers, age 14-74, who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week. The data were collected in October and November, 2020.