People Are Watching Movies More Frequently Through Streaming Subscriptions Than Pay-TV

March 29, 2022

Although Americans’ screen-time activities are gradually evolving away from TV and movies, the pandemic has brought about an increase in home-based new movie viewing. And, as a new report [pdf] from the Motion Picture Association (MPA) indicates, people are now more likely to be watching movies at home via online subscription services than pay-TV.

The report indicates that a similar share of US adults (18+) watched movies last year via pay-TV (79%) as via online subscription (82%). However, almost half (46%) reported watching movies through online subscriptions either every day (21%) or several times a week (25%), whereas fewer (4 in 10) could say the same about watching movies with that frequency using a pay-TV subscription (20% and 20%, respectively).

Meanwhile, about half (52%) watched movies at all via electronic sell-through (EST)/video-on-demand (VOD) services, with just 12% doing so at least several times a week. This was roughly the same proportion as those who used a physical disc to watch movies, with 56% doing so at all and 13% doing so at least several times a week.

The trends are broadly similar when examining viewing trends for TV shows and series, with a slightly higher proportion doing through online subscriptions than pay-TV (both overall and by frequency), and substantially fewer using EST/VOD or physical discs.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic has had an impact on viewing behaviors. Some 53% of respondents said that they increased their viewing of movies or TV shows/series via online subscription services during the COVID-19 pandemic period, versus just 8% who said their viewing via this method decreased. The net rating of +45% (% increased minus % decreased) outweighs the net increase in viewing via pay-TV (+30%), EST/VOD (+15%) and physical disc (+1%).

Analyzing audiences across demographic variables, the report indicates that women comprised 52% of online subscription viewers and 51% of pay-TV viewers, figures roughly in line with the population at-large (52% share). However, they under-index in physical disc viewership, representing 47% of viewers via this method. As expected, the 18-39 age group is over-represented in online subscription viewing, comprising 43% of this audience as opposed to 37% of the population. And as for race and ethnicity, white audiences are slightly under-represented in online subscription viewing, at 60% of this audience versus 63% of the population.

These patterns were generally consistent when examining daily viewers of movies or TV shows/series, though exacerbated. Focusing on daily viewing of these content types via online subscription services, the report finds that women made up 54% of the audience (versus 52% of the population), while the 18-39 bracket comprised 55% of the audience (versus 37% of the population) and White adults 52% of the audience (versus 63% of the population).

About the Data: The results are based on a survey conducted in January 2022 among 8,074 US adults (18+), comprising 4,030 men and 4,044 women.

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