NPD: Pandemic-Driven Record Movie and TV Viewership Continues

Record time spent watching movies and TV shows in the United States continues, while consumer spending on entertainment declines.

New data from The NPD Group found time spent watching TV shows and movies in the first half of the year rose 4% compared with the previous-year period. Screen entertainment spending declined 1%.

Viewing hours from January through June 30 accounted for 30% of the time U.S. consumers spent entertaining themselves. However, there were large time differences between the first quarter and the second, since Q1 compared with the prior-year, pre-pandemic period, while the Q2 contrasted with record year-ago stay-at-home viewership levels.

NPD said watching movies in movie theaters remained significantly below pre-pandemic levels. In part, entertainment time was diverted to in-home viewing through premium releases and the proliferation of Netflix and other SVOD services. However, the reduced number of theatrical releases limited the flow of retail releases through other video distribution channels.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based research group suggests that as consumers spend more time going out to eat, travel, and other experiential activities, SVOD engagement has pulled back. Time spent on experiences has grown 104% this year compared with last year.

Free streaming video is a growing supplement to viewers’ cost of SVOD services. The digital transaction business experienced gains in 2020 and is now positioned to retain viewer engagement. These gains are happening, in part, because of shorter theatrical windows and the release of premium VOD offerings. Meanwhile, traditional content viewing on cable, satellite TV, and packaged media continues to migrate to streaming.

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“Looking ahead, the mandate for the industry is to retain viewer engagement and win the battle for share of viewers’ time,” John Buffone, connected intelligence and media entertainment industry analyst for NPD, said in a statement. “As consumers migrate back to experiential activities, the available time to engage in watching TV shows and movies will naturally decline.”