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UTA Study Finds Consumers’ Pandemic Streaming Habits Are Here to Stay

Consumers plan to watch more entertainment moving forward compared to pre-pandemic, but they also expect more from creators and their favorite shows.

The Queen's Gambit

Anya Taylor-Joy in “The Queen’s Gambit”

Phil Bray/Netflix

It’s no surprise that the pandemic changed people’s entertainment viewing habits by accelerating wider adoption of streaming. But a new study by United Talent Agency quantifies that, and also suggests that viewing habits — including subscribing to more streaming services and watching more content — is here to stay.

The study, “Forever Changed: COVID-19’s Lasting Impact on the Entertainment Industry,” was conducted by the agency’s data and analytics division, UTA IQ. It surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. adults ages 18-54.

Its key findings suggest that consumers plan to watch more TV and movies across more platforms and more genres in their post-pandemic lives, compared to their habits prior to the pandemic. Consumers also expect more diverse storytelling and a more participatory relationship between them and the TV and film and celebrities they admire.

“During the pandemic, consumers developed a new and deeper relationship with entertainment and media,” said Joe Kessler, global head of UTA IQ. “They spent more time with content and became more exploratory across genres and platforms. Entertainment and media proved a reliable escape from our stay-at-home lives. The key issue now is whether this gives way to a more enduring shift in behavior and expectations. What consumers are telling us is that now that they have formed many new habits, they won’t let them go.”

The vast majority of those surveyed, 84 percent, said they spent more time with entertainment during the pandemic compared to the year before. Sixty-seven percent said they intend to spend more time with entertainment after the pandemic.

The report said that consumers who tried new platforms prior to the pandemic were a “noteworthy minority.” But in the past year, 70 percent of those surveyed tried new formats, platforms, genres, and/or perspectives in entertainment.

That’s in line with a report from J.D. Power from January that found half of respondents said they subscribed to four or more streaming services, up from 39 percent in April 2020. The average number of streaming subscriptions was four, up from three in April.

In the UTA survey, one third say they plan to subscribe to or use more entertainment platforms, a quarter say they plan to consume more genres, and one third plan to consume more international TV and film and/or stories with diverse voices.

One in five of those surveyed said they would be more willing to pay for exclusive content from celebrities and influences than they were prior to the pandemic. UTA argues that this translates into an opportunity to engage (and collect revenue from) more than over 30 million people in the U.S. alone.

The agency also suggests we are headed into the “golden age of fandom.” Half of consumers said they became more engaged with entertainment and strengthened their fandom during the pandemic. One third said they are more likely to take up a hobby inspired by entertainment, like chess thanks to “The Queen’s Gambit” or embroidery thanks to “Bridgerton.”

One fifth are more likely to join an online community centered around a celebrity/influencer or entertainment property and a quarter believe celebrities and influencers will need to include their fans in the creative process.

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