Lockdown TV Viewing: From 'Me' To 'We'

In addition to its immediate health dangers and economic reverberations, the coronavirus has, for the time being, upended everyday life as we know it. 

“Social distancing,” working from home, forgoing outside activities and events and staying in are the “current normal.” These new behaviors are impacting everything from online shopping, food and restaurants to TV usage. 

How should media companies be tailoring their programing to these emerging viewership patterns? 

We’ve seen a lot of data confirming that TV viewing is up across dayparts, and across both news and entertainment of all types. Everything from premium cable to local TV is up year-over-year. Streaming is also up, with Netflix viewership hitting all-time highs. 

But as nationwide quarantines took hold in March, an interesting and clear shift occurred: The key driver for consumers’ video choices changed from “me” to “we,” according to Ipsos research. 



To inform subscriber acquisition and retention decisions, Ipsos has tracked consumer awareness, intent to subscribe and other attribute ratings for leading streaming providers since November 2019, as a complement to its Streaming 360 research.  

Ipsos compared data on key driver (U.S. and U.K.) for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Apple TV+ that was collected between March 5-11 of this year, with wave data from late 2019. 

The most notable result: The impact of “we” metrics on “likelihood to subscribe/continue subscribing” increased 13%, on average, while the influence of “me” attributes rose just 3%.  

One key “we” attribute — “Is popular with most members of my household” — is the dominant driver across providers/markets. 

In six of eight cases, this attribute ranked #1 in March, compared to ranking #1 in just two of eight cases in November. 

Further, in most instances, this key driver shifted from a “me” attribute in the prior wave. 

In the U.S., the impact of popularity in one’s household was up 23% for Apple TV+ and up 21% for Disney+ versus Wave 3. In the U.K., there was a 21% increase in the impact of that attribute for Apple TV+ and 11% for Disney+ versus Wave 3. 

This evolution makes intuitive sense. As consumers are watching TV and video together more, their selection criteria have become more focused on what they enjoy together. This more communal TV viewing experience harkens back to earlier phases of TV history, when communal watching was the norm. 

Evolutions in technology, entertainment and overall culture have resulted in pushing family members apart — both physically (in different locations, doing different things) and digitally (different types of viewing, different devices, different social/communication tools). But with people sheltering in place, there’s been a return to the importance of the communal viewing experience. 

How can media companies and platforms leverage this insight to resonate with consumers in the immediate term? They can tailor their programming to these newly emerging viewership behaviors to meet viewers where they are. 

Clearly, content providers should strive to promote and leverage content that is appropriate and suitable for the entire family and complements co-viewing. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be G-rated: Many families are no doubt watching “Tiger King,” as well as “Lion King.” 

This craving for shared, communal viewing experiences is being felt by folks who live alone, too. It’s human nature to seek company and connection, especially during times of anxiety. This has given rise to “party viewing” and other hacks to co-view shows remotely. Media companies should seek ways to leverage and extend these remote, co-viewing opportunities. 

One side effect of the rise of co-viewing is a commensurate rise in bingeing of classic, older TV shows, movies and sports events. While that’s partly driven by the reassuring nature of nostalgia, it also reflects parents’ desire to share their old favorites with their children. Content providers should consider leveraging this sharing behavior to get the biggest bang from their historical programming. 

Will this “back to the future” approach to selection persist when our day-to-day existences, and our TV viewing habits, return to normal (assuming that they ever do)? 

Will the ‘we’ driver data also return to pre-COVID 19 status? Or will consumers maintain a focus on family agreement as the key driver of TV platform choice? 

Hard to predict. Data from prior crises often show that behaviors take a long time to return to pre-crisis levels. 

But we’ll be fielding another study to see how this behavior is evolving through the crisis, so stay tuned for an update.

1 comment about "Lockdown TV Viewing: From 'Me' To 'We'".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, April 3, 2020 at 11 a.m.

    We are going to need a lot more "we" and a lot less "me," to get through this...

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