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Media Consumption Amid COVID-19: Consumers Streaming More Content

Blog Post06/10/2020
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As many consumers continue to find themselves sheltering in place, they’ve turned to digital channels and devices for news, comfort and entertainment. According to a recent online survey of 2,639 US adult consumers conducted by TransUnion the week of May 18, 2020 via Survey Monkey, more than half (56%) of US adults use paid streaming services more than they did before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11.

Of those consumers, the percentage subscribed to 3–5 services was up from 37% pre-pandemic to 48% at the time of the survey. Over-the-top (OTT), connected TV (CTV), and streaming audio and TV platforms like Hulu, Prime Video, Netflix, Spotify and more, have all announced their own increase in subscribers:

  • Netflix added more than 2 million net new paid subscribers in North America in the first quarter

  • Total monthly active Spotify users ticked up to 286 million, a 31% growth rate

  • Hulu saw a 27% subscriber increase over last year, while Disney+ added more than 2 million subscribers (mostly in the US) between the end of 2019 and its Q1 earnings call in February

In contrast, the number of US pay TV households continues its downward spiral, forecasted by eMarketer to decline from 80.5 million in 2020 to 69.6 million by 2023. The TransUnion survey found 53% of subscribers use streaming content in place of cable subscriptions. Other industry surveys have considered cable TV loss could be even greater if live events like NFL and other sports continue to sit in limbo.

As long as consumers stay home, it’s clear digital media consumption growth will continue on a more feverish path than originally anticipated. The survey found average content consumption was up from 1–2 hours per day prior to the pandemic to an average of 3–4 hours daily. As of the week of May 18, 35% of consumers said they were spending at least 5 hours per day consuming content.

What’s unknown is which platforms will come out on top as states start to reopen, especially as consumers slowly start shifting back to previous consumption habits — a pendulum swing that could take months to return to normal, if it does. Almost half (45%) of consumers said they expected their new streaming behaviors would be permanent post-pandemic.

After some advertisers pulled or reduced campaign spend in late Q1 and Q2, others expect a recovery to begin in Q3. As advertisers re-enter a cautious market where more time is being spent with digital, many may choose nimbler, data-driven, programmatic advertising channels, such as OTT, CTV and streaming. These environments allow advertisers to make dynamic targeting and messaging decisions based on data, adjusting and learning from evolving consumer behavior.

Increased investments in audience and device targeting are well-timed and well aligned. The TransUnion survey revealed 45% of consumers are leveraging multiple devices — like smartphones, tablets and TVs — more now than before the pandemic. SmartTV was the most popular streaming device overall, though consumers between the ages of 18 and 29 also preferred mobile devices (25%), while 19% of those aged 30–44 also had a preference for OTT.

As more families shelter in place and increase their consumption habits, multiperson households are evenly split when it comes to whether they consume more content individually (31%), as a family (36%) or about the same (33%). This evidence is one piece in a growing list of why advertisers must understand the makeup of each household they’re targeting. With more robust insights into the individuals behind each screen, advertisers can supplement dynamic decisions with robust insights to help inform targeting, messaging and creative.

As consumers shift across devices to consume content, having a comprehensive view and deeper understanding of each individual, and connecting that data identity across devices and linkage points, will be critical to driving consistent and relevant experiences.

For more insights from TransUnion’s media consumption survey, check out our infographic.

The information contained in this blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial advice.  You should consult your own attorney or financial adviser regarding your particular situation.  TransUnion does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided.  The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute an endorsement by TransUnion.  TransUnion LLC and its subsidiaries and affiliates (“TransUnion”) make no endorsement, recommendation, or representation with respect to the information provided herein. For complete details of TransUnion products, visit

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