Guy Rancourt, VP of Media
April 23, 2020
As we all continue to adjust to the new normal, it’s fair to speculate on what the future holds for the video landscape. It’s no surprise that with most of the country confined to their homes that media consumption is up across the board – especially in linear TV and OTT. But what will these changes mean long term?
As audiences are in home-confinement, they have ample time on their hands to explore all their media options. In fact, they have no choice but to fill the hours- social, streaming, television and online media usage are peaking. It’s forcing people to delve deeper into their entertainment ecosystem. It’s exposing them to linear channels and streaming platforms that, 30 days ago, were not on their radar (I even found myself watching ‘I Survived’ on something called The Justice Network). And it’s growing consumption across both paid and free OTT platforms, exposing audiences to new sources of video content. Across demos, the biggest spikes in usage are among the younger demographics, which stands to reason when you consider that they were the segment consuming the least video content prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, the average viewer is spending over than an hour more per day with the television screen (5+ hours).
It’s naïve to think that the COVID-induced spikes in viewership will sustain. Hopes for maintaining the ratings bumps we are experiencing now, or even the high viewership among streaming services are not practical. Levels will naturally diminish as Americans return to work and leave their homes again. Without a doubt, the ratings increases in linear are a welcome sight after years of declines, but they are unlikely to maintain the growth given:
- Lack of production during the stay-at-home restrictions. New season programming, particularly in primetime, will not be ready, turning viewers away when they expect new content in the fall.
- The trends that were present prior to the Coronavirus outbreak (audience fragmentation, linear erosion) will not be reversed, even with the massive impact a crisis of this magnitude causes.
Will we see a ‘new normal’ of social distancing take effect after we get the all clear? Or quite the opposite- where everyone embraces the opportunity to be outside. At restaurants, the movies, the beach or just hosting get-togethers again after being denied those long-lost indulgences. Either way, they’ll be hungry for good content, as they have always been. They just might be gravitating more towards alternative sources when we emerge on the other side.
All of this can only bode well for streaming services that were already on the rise pre-COVID and will likely accelerate adoption and usage. So, the need to diversify media mixes will only become more apparent and more necessary. Audiences will not abandon linear- so that will continue to be a valuable reach vehicle, integral to media mixes. But marketers need to recognize that a larger swath of the population will surely have sampled and grown used to a heavier dose of streaming video into their regular habits. Between Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Quibi, Peacock, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, not to mention free services like Pluto TV, Crackle, Tubi, etc. – they’ve never been pulled in so many directions before. Meanwhile more services are on the way from AT&T, Comcast, ViacomCBS and Discovery. Consumers are customizing their media consumption: on their terms, with the content they want to view, when they want to view it. And it makes sense for brands and agencies to follow suit.