Consumers’ Media Diet Reportedly Trending Away from Ad-Supported Content

May 8, 2023

Consumers in the US spend less than half of their media time with ad-supported media, and in a few years they’ll be joined by consumers around the world, according to the Global Consumer Media Usage Forecast 2023-2027 [executive summary] from PQ Media. The analysis finds that within the US, ad-supported media accounted for 45.7% share of media time last year, down from 50.2% in 2017.

Fast forward to 2027, and PQ Media expects that decline to continue, with ad-supported media comprising just 41.5% of US consumers’ media time.

The trends are similar on a global level, albeit slightly lagging. Last year PQ Media reports that consumers worldwide spent 53.7% of their media time with ad-supported media. That figure is down from 58.5% share in 2017, and should drop below the majority threshold (49.2%) in 2027.

The figures are in contrast to previous reporting from Nielsen, which in 2018 said that ad-supported media still commanded the vast majority of media time in the US. While the data may differ, it’s easy to see how the trend away from ad-supported media could be taking place, what with the decline in pay-TV subscriptions, and the rise of subscriptions in entertainment, from subscription video-on-demand to paid music streaming. At the same time, it’s true that streaming video services, for example, are introducing ad-supported tiers, and ad-supported video streaming services are growing in popularity, which may dampen this trend. What happens in TV has a strong impact on the overall media averages, as consumers around the world watch TV more than any other media, occupying almost exactly half of their media time (27.8 of the 55.8-hour average last year).

The PQ Media analysis indicates that globally, consumers’ use of media grew by 2.7% last year. That followed a deceleration of growth in 2021 (+1.7%), which itself had followed the fastest increase in 15 years in 2020 (+3.3%), fueled by the pandemic. This year should again show a deceleration, with PQ Media expecting only an 0.6% increase in consumer media use.

Last year, the Greatest Generation was the heaviest user of media, averaging just over 90 hours per week, compared to the 55.8 hour average. Media usage appears to be strongly correlated with age, as the youngest generation (born 2013+) averaged the lowest amount of weekly time, at 24.9 hours, and each successive older generation added to that total.

Not surprisingly, media usage is shifting to digital, for which consumption climbed by 8.1% last year even as traditional media usage was flat. That brought digital media to almost 20 hours per week, comprising 35.3% of all media time worldwide. Men spend more of their media time with digital media than women, per the report, while “i-Gens” (Gen Z) are the highest digital users worldwide, at 51.1% share of their media time. PQ Media also notes that in many mature markets, Millennials are now also spending the majority of their media time with digital media.

This year PQ Media forecasts that digital consumer media use will grow by 6.6%, while traditional media consumption will drop by 2.7%.

In other highlights from the report:

  • The average consumer around the world used media for about 8 hours a day last year, up from 7.14 hours in 2017.
  • Digital media’s 35.3% share of media time in 2022 was up by almost 10% points in just 5 years, from 25.5% share in 2017.
  • Although “i-Gens” (Gen Z) spend the highest share of time with digital, Millennials spend the most overall time with digital media on a weekly basis (23.5 hours).
  • Of the 22 digital media channels tracked, mobile video showed the fastest relative growth in time spent last year, at 18.6%.
  • Among traditional media, only print books, OTA radio and print newspapers showed consumption growth last year, which PQ Media attributes to coverage of the Ukraine conflict.
  • PQ Media does not expect traditional media to post positive growth in consumption ever again.

For more, download the executive summary here.


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