The acceleration of media trends and behaviours

by Elliot Whitehead
Brands & Media

A year of confinement drove us to spend more time in front of television and screens of all types. Some 63% of Britons say they are watching more TV and streaming services as a result of the pandemic.1 As in other areas of life, COVID-19 has forced us into new habits in media consumption, as well as accelerated some existing trends.

Trialling new services

The lockdowns in 2020 presented a unique opportunity for TV and media companies looking to engage new and existing audiences. During the initial lockdown, viewing of broadcast video on-demand services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub was up 45% year-on-year.2

As we looked for content to binge-watch (Tiger King anyone?), video on demand services such as Netflix and Disney+ enjoyed a surge in sign-ups. The latest OFCOM figures show that 12 million people signed up to a streaming service for the first time while Disney+ received 50 million subscribers in its first five months.3

Young girl watching children's TV

A rise in nostalgia

Our Lockdown TV study with Thinkbox revealed a rise in the popularity of nostalgic, feel-good content during lockdown with the wealth of classic British TV shows on services such as Britbox testament to this.

“I’m rewatching Only Fools and Horses … and other comedies to remind me of my youth”

As broadcasters struggled to create new content under lockdown restrictions, this well-loved programming offered us all a moment of positive escapism. We also found that some parents enjoyed nostalgic TV as a way to bond with their children, introducing them to the content they enjoyed when they were younger.

We have continued to see resurfaced classic content (from iconic sports matches to our favourite dramas of yesteryear) alongside new productions and reboots of classic shows and movies from Saved by the Bell to West Side Story, all tapping into our nostalgic yearning for a more certain past.

Did you

In the first week of lockdown time spent with TV increased by


‘We viewing’

As new viewing habits emerged and routines changed, so too did the importance of the shared experience TV provides. Though TV has often brought households together, in lockdown our research emphasised just how key this was, whether physically or virtually.

“We’re really enjoying watching things together and finding things we both enjoy. Whereas before lockdown, my partner would watch a lot of things on his own and I would also do the same whilst he was at work. We’ll definitely stick with this new habit.”

Our research has highlighted the desire to continue this ‘we viewing’ and shared experience of TV. A move back to ‘we viewing’ is good news for TV, but also paves the way for new virtual shared experiences. This year a record 12.3 million people tuned in for a virtual concert within the online video game Fortnite, suggesting shared content in other media could prove popular.4

Young man lying on sofa watching TV on tablet device

As the pandemic continues to unfold and audiences’ needs change, there are three key thoughts for media brands:

1) Reassess your audience assumptions – while the COVID-19 pandemic has merely accelerated a trend towards streaming services, the increased numbers who have now trialled them may be more open-minded to other services, media and tech, creating new opportunities for brands to engage. The onus will be on brands and broadcasters alike to show their value in order to be chosen in the moments that matter.

2) Dial up shared experiences – whether it’s enjoying new content together or introducing a loved one to an old favourite, audiences will continue to look for shared TV experiences. Disney’s recent launch of their GroupWatch functionality (allowing subscribers to sync content for different households to watch simultaneously) taps into this, and we’re likely to see more examples from brands in the near future. Media providers should be focussing their TV content on big TV moments people can share together and experience in new ways, such as the next Olympics and Euro 2021.

3) Be adaptable and responsive – now more than ever the mood of the nation will ebb and flow – and it will offer sink-or-swim moments for brands. Really understanding the ‘moment’ will offer big opportunities for brands that get it right.

The onus will be on brands and broadcasters alike to show their value

Elliot Whitehead

Elliot Whitehead

Research Manager