How can media and entertainment companies develop lasting relationships with discriminating consumers? Our latest survey reveals a world being reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic and generational trends.

After a historic and challenging year, US consumers have become more reliant than ever on media for entertainment, information, and social connection. The pandemic has accelerated preexisting industry trends and altered entertainment-related behaviors, leading many to wonder which will stick after the crisis and what the implications may be for media and entertainment (M&E) businesses.

There is competition for audiences among a crowded field of streaming video providers, but also with other forms of entertainment. People are enjoying more paid and free options for streaming video and music services; video gaming is growing across generations; and more people are turning to social media for entertainment and news. But they only have so much time, attention, and money. As M&E companies vie for consumers, the next wave of disruption may lie with Generation Z—who prefers to play video games, stream music, and engage on social media, often simultaneously, rather than just watch TV or movies.

Everyone is looking to court the consumer—streamers, video game companies, social media services, and advertisers. But courtship is likely only the first step toward building a lasting relationship. In this world of choice, where consumers are “the belle of the ball,” we wanted to understand their behaviors, how they differ, and how M&E companies can best position themselves as long-term partners. We will explore:

• The state of the entertainment landscape—consumer preferences and how they engage with the many entertainment options vying for their time and money

• The similarities and differences between streaming video, streaming music, and gaming audiences

• The role of social media as an aggregator of news and entertainment, and what this means for advertising and trust

• How people relate to advertising and how advertisers are under greater pressure—and scrutiny—to connect with audiences in personal ways

Everyone on the dance floor: Choice for consumers, competition for providers

In this world of choice, US consumers have multiple free and paid entertainment options vying for their consideration. Most respondents said they use social media, have at least one paid streaming video service, and play video games frequently or occasionally. Many also subscribe to music streaming services and have a traditional pay TV subscription.

With so many entertainment options, asking consumers about their favorite activities can lead to valuable insights. For our respondents, watching TV and movies at home continued to be the overall favorite, with 57% ranking it in their top three (out of 16 entertainment activities). This was the top choice for Millennials, Generation X, and Boomers (figure 2). When we looked at Generation Z, however, there were distinct differences. Playing video games was their favorite activity (26%), followed by listening to music (14%), browsing the internet (12%), and engaging on social platforms (11%). Only 10% of Generation Z said that watching TV or movies at home was their favorite form of entertainment.

If the Generation Z preferences for gaming, music, and social media persist over time, the dominant position that video entertainment has held could be challenged. If this is the case, media companies should be prepared to evolve and take a diversified approach, starting with gaming. All of these options are dividing and fragmenting the market considerably. Providers should now understand the nuances among customer segments, generations, and differing kinds of media.

Read the full report here.

By Jana Arbanas, Chris Arkenberg, Kevin Downs & Kevin Westcott