Has COVID-19 Created the Ideal Conditions for Cord Cutting and Binge Watching?

For most industries and businesses, COVID-19 has taken an overwhelming toll. But for streaming services or platforms, it’s an entirely different story.

Americans are expected to watch 60% more television, according to Nielsen data. Most streaming services have begun to offer free trials. Mobile streaming service Quibi, which launched April 6, recorded 1.7 million downloads in its first week. As COVID-19 forces people to stay inside, will demand for online streaming continue to rise?

Using Feedback Loop's rapid consumer feedback platform, we surveyed more than 500 adults in the United States who have streamed content in the past 30 days to learn how their streaming habits have changed.

Some key findings:

  • A slight majority of respondents (53%) said they’ve spent a lot more time streaming on-demand content since the global pandemic spread. Participants who have children were more likely to stream more content (63%) than those without children (45%). So, too, were participants in urban areas, with 66% indicating they are spending more time streaming content compared to those in rural areas (49%) or the suburbs (42%). Parents are likely letting their children, who are home from daycare and school indefinitely, stream more movies and TV shows than usual. And given that going outside right now can prove difficult for those living in densely populated areas while social distancing measures are in place, it seems city dwellers are finding more comfort in binge-watching than their rural or suburban counterparts.

  • When asked why they’ve been streaming content, 75% said to pass time indoors, and 64% said they wanted to take their mind off COVID-19. 19% said it’s to have something to post to social media about, which sounds trivial until you learn that 56% of people said they discover new content to stream via social media.

  • There is some indication that streaming has increased and will continue to climb the longer this goes on. In the last week, 61% of participants said they streamed 11 or more hours of content - more than a work day’s worth of consumption. Compare that to a typical week, where 51% of people said they streamed 11 or more hours of content.

  • Surprisingly, most participants have not started using new streaming services since the onset of the pandemic. Only 32% of participants said they subscribed to or started a free trial of a streaming service they hadn’t used before. There is increasing pressure for Americans to put their free time to good use during the pandemic, so perhaps people are focusing on other hobbies instead of doubling down on streaming content. As our recent research into health and well-being suggests, people are turning to both new and old hobbies in an effort to maintain mental well-being. Top activities include reading (57%), meditating (29%), and crafting (24%).

  • Not only are people streaming content while isolating, but it’s also become a way to connect with others. 57% recommend what they watch to friends and 34% post about their consumption on social media. And even though COVID-19 has put most major sporting events on hold, people are still finding ways to engage with their favorite teams. 31% said they watched replays of past games. Men were overwhelmingly more likely to watch old sports footage (50%) compared to women (19%).

Want more information on Feedback Loop's COVID-19 research? Email Mark Pivinski at mark.pivinski@feedbackloop.com.

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