Pandemic Paradox: Consumer Spending On Media Soars In 2020

Call it the pandemic paradox. While the COVID-19 crisis led to one of the worst years in recent memory for the media industry in terms of ad spending, it proved to be a banner year for consumer spending.

This comes despite -- or maybe because of -- the pandemic, as homebound consumers boosted their spending on both media content and technology to keep in touch and stay informed and entertained. That’s the finding of PQ Media’s just released Global Consumer Spending on Media Forecast 2020-2024.

The report estimates that consumers worldwide boosted their personal spending on media 6.1% -- nearly double the 3.8% increase of their spending on media in 2019, while in the U.S., it tripled to 5.6% in 2020 from 1.7% in 2019.

The increases come despite the fact that a normally major outlay for many consumers -- theatrical film releases -- plummeted as theaters shuttered worldwide, although some of that spending clearly was reallocated into subscription streaming services -- so on the balance, it was a very good year for consumer spending on media.

Regardless of the impact of the pandemic -- pre-, during and post- -- PQ projects consumer spending on media will continue to climb, but will “decelerate” over the next few years, reaching a tipping point in supply and demand around 2023, according to PQ founder and CEO Patrick Quinn.

“As many of the pandemic-driven forces that sparked the atypical end-user spending splurge in 2020 begin to fade in the second half of 2021, as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out worldwide, adult workers begin returning to office buildings and children start repopulating physical schools,” he notes, adding: “We forecast last year that consumer media spending would likely reach an inflection point and stop growing in 2023.

“While the pandemic briefly interrupted key secular trends in 2020, this was a near-term disruption of long-term trends that will resume in the 2021-2024 period, such as the deceleration of growth or outright decline of expenditures on print newspapers, magazines and directories, as well as mobile phones, DVDs and in-theater movie tickets.”

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