Bingeing and live TV are so 2020: US moves away from the couch to social media in 2021

We have been living through unprecedented times. Last year, when the Attest Media released Consumption Report for 2020, the world was in the midst of a pandemic. As a consequence, some of the numbers we saw in the report defied all forecasts. Content was being consumed in record-breaking quantities, with many people having little else to do as a result of lockdowns.

In many ways, things will never be the same again in the post-pandemic world. The Great Reopening is gathering pace, but there are still many adjustments required before life will seem like 'normal' again. Consumer behavior has changed dramatically and brands need to reset their approach in order to effectively engage with them.

This year, with the publication of 2021's Media Consumption Report, we're beginning to see what the new 'normal' will be for Americans. Throughout 2020, many of us were spending much more time at home and consequently, our media consumption went up. Now, the time spent watching TV has dropped - not just compared to 2020 - but it is also considerably lower than pre-pandemic levels too.

One thing that gave us a great deal of support throughout the pandemic was the humble couch. A reliable friend who was always there with us through all of the live news broadcasts and propped us up through our box-set binges. As the Great Reopening continues, it seems that these faithful buddies will have to get used to a slightly less prominent role in our lives. This is because our desire to sit in front of a TV screen for prolonged periods of time has greatly reduced.

Attest Media's research reveals a collapse in consumers watching TV news, with just under a third (32%) regularly tuning in, compared with 46% in 2020. Binge-watching of both live TV and streaming content has also been in freefall. While Netflix still dominates streaming, the percentage of people engaging in five-hour-plus sessions on streaming platforms is down from 25.9% in 2020 to just 12.4% in 2021. So spare a thought for our couches, who have been seeing a little less of us recently and are presumably suffering acute separation anxiety as a consequence.

But what else can brands learn from these insights into the new normal habits of consumers? Having questioned 2,000 working-age Americans about their media consumption habits up to August 12th 2021, we’ve broken the data down by age demographic, covering a wide variety of media from printed publications to podcasts. The findings are too numerous to cover here, but I've picked out some highlights below. Brands that want to dig deeper into the research are welcome to use Attest's interactive dashboard where they can slice and dice the data as they require.

Social media dominates

Over 92 percent of US consumers spend at least some portion of their day on social media platforms, making them the country’s most popular mediums. Six out of 10 Generation Z-ers are spending more than three hours on social media, compared to a third of Millennials and one-fourth of those in Generation X.

While Gen Z favors YouTube and TikTok as their social media platforms of choice, Facebook is still the overall favorite of Americans thanks largely to Gen X and Boomers, with 68% and 70% of these groups respectively using this platform every day.

The death of live TV?
GenZ and Boomers are fiending for social media
Social media remains the belle of the ballGenZ & Boomers (?!) are social media’s biggest fans

For the first time, since the Attest Media Consumption Report was launched in 2019, the proportion of Americans who watch streaming TV content (82.8%) has surpassed those who watch live TV (81%) on a daily basis. Boomers and Gen X are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the demographics that are still watching the most live TV.

Around 54% of Boomers and 44% of Gen X watch three hours or more of live TV per day. Conversely, 29% of Gen Z don’t watch any live TV. Of the 71% that do still watch some, their typical viewing time is much lower than other age groups; 32% watch less than an hour a day, while 20% watch between one and two hours. Meanwhile, Netflix is the standout winner of the streaming wars in 2021. Not only is it the favored platform for Gen Z, with 86% using it, it’s also the nation’s most-used streaming service overall.

No news is good news

As mentioned previously, the number of consumers watching TV news has dropped dramatically, with just under a third of Americans (31.8%) regularly tuning into news content in 2021, compared to 46.3% in 2020. While to some extent this is likely to be due to the conclusion of major news events such as the Presidential election, it also demonstrates that a certain degree of 'news fatigue' has set in, with audiences turned off by the constant barrage of bad news.
While TV news is out, escapism is in, with all demographics displaying a high level of interest in the drama category. Comedy was also a favored category for most demographics, although Boomers were markedly less likely to watch comedy than other generations.

The young will pay

One of the more surprising findings in the research is that those in Generation Z are more likely than average to pay for a digital content subscription, with 25% saying they had at least one paid subscription, compared to the overall average of 20%. Boomers are the least likely to have any paid digital content subscription, at just 10%, though a further 21% do have subscriptions to one or more printed publications.

Equally surprising is the number of Gen Z consumers that listen to the radio. Nearly a quarter (24%) of Gen Z say they listen a few times a week and 19% listen daily, with only 15% saying that they don't listen to the radio at all. However, you’re still more likely to find Gen Z listening to streamed music than the radio – they listen more frequently than any other demographic, with 60% streaming daily.

Americans’ habits across television, audio, news and social media are constantly changing. The Attest Media Consumption Report 2021 is a rich mine of data that can cast light on the nature of these changes and the interactive dashboard is an invaluable tool for brands that want to understand how to capture different demographics, decide where to allocate ad spend and anticipate future media trends.

By Jeremy King - CEO And Founder of Attest

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