How Coronavirus Changed the Way We Watch, Listen and Play
In the pandemic era, we’re streaming more video — and prime time no longer exists
Noon is the new prime time for TV.
People are watching more video of all kinds — Netflix, TikTok, cable TV and YouTube. But while total consumption is up, most people aren’t actually watching more during the hours we associate with prime-time TV. Streaming video use between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. is down around the world, according to Conviva. Instead, people are watching more in the middle of the day. The amount of time people spend streaming video between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. is up more than 40%.
What is everyone watching? “Tiger King” is the first breakout hit of quarantine. The documentary about a subculture of big-cat breeders and owners was the most-watched program on Netflix in the U.S. for the better part of two weeks. Hulu, meanwhile, says its viewers “gravitated towards comedies and ‘comfort’ TV shows.”
We’re listening to less music — but watching more.
Audio streaming fell around the world during the first couple weeks of quarantine, according to industry experts and MRC Data. Streaming in the U.S., the world’s largest market, plunged to its lowest level all year before stabilizing at the end of March. Some experts blamed the lack of fresh songs. Musicians such as Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys have delayed the release of their albums because they won’t be able to tour for months.
But the bigger issue, executives agree, is that music is an activity people do while on-the-go. People aren’t commuting or spending as much time in their cars, where a lot of listening happens.
The same applies to podcasting, which experienced three consecutive weeks of audience declines, according to Podtrac. Stuck at home, people would rather watch than listen. To wit: Music video streaming (aka YouTube) has jumped in the past month.
People spent 1.3 billion hours watching Twitch in March.
Twitch, the video-streaming site owned by Amazon.com Inc., has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the shelter-in-place orders. Time spent on Twitch jumped 23% in March from the month before, according to Streamlabs. While Twitch is best known as a site for gamers, it’s also proven popular for live concerts and a feature called #JustChatting, which is a lot like YouTube’s video blogging (or vlogging).
It’s not just hardcore gamers who are having fun either. Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a title for casual gamers in which players colonize a deserted island, has put up record sales.
Board games are cool again.
Parents eager to entertain their kids without a screen are turning back the clock. Toy sales in the U.S. spiked 26% in the week ending March 21, according to NPD.
The fastest-growing categories were games and puzzles, including board games and card games, and building sets (think: Lego).
News trumps live sports.
Prime-time ratings for ESPN were down more than 50% in the final week of March, while TBS, which would ordinarily be showing March Madness, saw its viewership plunge by more than 2.4 million viewers from a year ago. The lack of new live events has also shrank the audience for highlight shows (“SportsCenter”) and podcasts (Bill Simmons).
The biggest beneficiary on TV? Cable news. The Fox News channel was the most-watched cable network in the U.S., drawing 4.2 million viewers in the week, nearly double the runner-up, MSNBC. All three cable news networks topped 2 million that week, while no other cable network even exceeded 1.3 million.
We’re all influencers now.
Every social-media platform is experiencing a surge in new users and interactions. Instagram activity has climbed more than 20% in the U.S., Spain, France the U.K. since March 15, according to Klear. Snapchat has touted its own growth too, without getting too specific.
But users aren’t just watching other people. They are posting more too. Users uploaded 13% more stories to Instagram than they were before quarantines set in across most of the Western world, and the number of new stories to Wattpad, an online publishing portal, has climbed by 151%.