One of the most frequent messages I have received during my COVID-19 lockdown is from Netflix, and it reads: “Too many people are using your account right now.” For many - myself included - more time spent at home has meant more time streaming (or refereeing who can use Netflix at a given time). It is not news that streaming services have become the new reality of television. Whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, or newcomers like Quibi, it is becoming increasingly hard to find someone who does not subscribe to or use a streaming platform. The latest data from our MRI-Simmons Cord Evolution study reveals that 80% of US adults (200M people) use free, subscription or network streaming services or apps, up from 77% year ago. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, almost half (47%) of these viewers have been turning to platforms that they did not use beforehand, and this presents an opportunity for streaming services to understand a new kind of viewer - COVID Service Adopters.
These COVID Service Adopters skew male (54%), and at a median age of 39, they are five years younger than a typical streamer. They are a diverse group, with twenty-one percent identifying as Hispanic or Latinx, and 16% as African-American. And, almost one third (32%) are working parents juggling professional and family life. On all of these measures, COVID Service Adopters outpace streamers overall and a group we call COVID Stable Streamers (those who didn’t adopt a new service during COVID).
Attitudinally, this group has an incredible affinity for television. For 77% of COVID Service Adopters, TV is their favorite form of entertainment, and an almost equal number report that there is just not enough time in the day to watch everything they want to. Even more tellingly, 72% agree TV improves their lives. COVID has further entrenched their television habits. As a result of the pandemic, 81% are now always on the hunt for something to watch, and 77% say TV gives them a lifeline to the outside world. They are also watching both new and not-so-new programming; 81% have discovered new shows they didn’t even know existed, and 76% take comfort re-watching content they’d watched previously.
COVID Service Adopters’ appetite for content extends across genres, services and formats. Top premium shows include Jett (Cinemax), Warrior (Cinemax), Big Little Lies (HBO), Get Shorty (Epix) and War of the Worlds (Epix), and top original streaming series include Stranger Things (Netflix), The Mandalorian (Disney+), Cleopatra in Space (Peacock Originals), L.A.’s Finest (Spectrum Originals), and Diary of a Future President (Disney +). They are at least 2x more likely than all streamers to watch shows on platforms that are not typically associated with television: for example, “Ball in the Family” on Facebook Watch, “Justin Bieber Seasons” on YouTube Premium, and “50 States of Fright” on Quibi. These patterns are markedly different from COVID Stable Streamers.
For families with children home all day, a lot of “free time” is now filled with parental duties, which can explain why COVID Service Adopters outpace Stable Streamers when it comes to streaming Kids’ programming (+1.2x). Having to fit viewing time into kid-friendly schedules may also support their bingeing habits. Eighty-two percent of COVID Service Adopters are regular bingers who pick and choose a broad array of content, with a particular yen for niche genres like adult animation, cartoons, sports and gamer videos.
People are clearly turning to streaming to fill time and alleviate boredom in this strange year of social distancing and working from home. With top streaming services setting records in entertainment, the age of COVID may very well cement streaming as the present and future of television. Netflix has just earned a record 160 Emmy nominations, and as more traditional media companies jump on the streaming bandwagon (Disney +, BET+, NBC’s Peacock) it is safe to say we won’t be running out of content to watch (for now)!
Want to understand COVID Service Adopters at a glance? Download our companion infographic here.
You can learn more about our Cord Evolution Study here.
Chloe Rynhold contributed to this blog post