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Is the “golden era” of home entertainment services coming to an end?

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As the amount of free time begins to decrease, the remarkable boom in indoor entertainment recorded in 2020 seems to be cooling off.

After more than a year of adapting to the context COVID-19 pandemic. The world has witnessed the explosion of many new consumer trends. Indoor entertainment is considered one of the “golden eggs” of many businesses.

However, along with the acceleration of COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, governments in many rich countries have stopped encouraging people to stay at home, offices are reopening, restaurants are accepting orders. Return orders and more outdoor sports activities such as Wimbledon and EURO 2020 also opened the door for spectators to enter the field.

And of course, as the amount of free time begins to decrease, the remarkable boom in indoor entertainment recorded in 2020 seems to be cooling off.

The difficulty emerges the wisdom 

The new normalcy index, surveyed by The Economist, covering 50 countries, shows that business activity in many of these countries has returned to normal.

This has led Brendan Brady of online video subscription company Antenna to question whether the heyday of home entertainment like streaming video/movies is over. 

A survey of consumers in the US, Australia, UK, and Canada by analytics firm MIDiA shows that the average full-time worker has about 15% more free time during the pandemic. They not only have more time but even more, money if they keep their jobs.

According to statistics, spending by Americans on recreational activities such as sports, amusement parks, and holidays has decreased by 30% in 2020. This amount is partly spent on forms of online entertainment. 

In the UK, the time people spend using online services in the last year (including TV streaming services) has increased by more than half an hour a day to almost five hours, according to Ofcom, a body media management. The need to be connected has become more essential than ever.

At the time of the pandemic, 1 in 10 UK households did not have access to the Internet, but now around half of these are connected.

According to Craig Chapple of mobile apps research firm Sensor Tower, smartphone users around the world have installed 143 billion new apps, 25% more than in 2019 (and more) double the growth rate of 2018). 

In rich countries, time spent watching videos increased by about 80 minutes per week, while video games also saw large growth, as users spent an extra hour per week. Time spent listening to music increased by 5%, while search rates for podcasts (a series of digital audio or video files that users can download and listen to) and audiobooks also added nearly 25%.

Along with that, the demand for printed books of various kinds also increased. According to data firm Nielsen in the UK, 4 out of 10 people say they read more than they used to.

The growth is most pronounced in young people, especially women. They spend up to 50% more time reading than they did before the pandemic. In which, cookbooks and gardening were the top choices, while in the children’s book segment, books to support self-study at home increased the most.

“Some one cry, others laugh”

As free time dwindles, the question arises as to which of these newly acquired habits will continue and which will be forgotten. In the extremely competitive video streaming market, there are early signs that viewership may be dwindling.

According to research firm Omdia, the number of streaming services used by viewers in the US fell this past April, with an average of 7.06 services (including free services). compared to 7.23 of November 2020.

Worldwide, 5 million users signed up to use Netflix in the first quarter of 2021, down from 15 million in the same period of 2020. Meanwhile Disney+, Netflix’s top rival, also dropped. forecast of the number of new users. 

However, it is impossible not to mention the main “loser”. Those are forms of entertainment in the old format. For example, the share of cable TV viewers in the US, which has long been in decline, increased only slightly in 2020. However, according to analytics firm MoffettNathanson, the reopening has boosted the outlook in the sector slipped faster than ever, falling 23% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2021, while US broadcast television viewership fell similarly.

And although most movie theaters have reopened, a year-long disruption has forced film studios to change the way they do business. Some studios are now prioritizing the release of new blockbusters on the streaming service platform on the same day the movie is released in theaters.

Along with accelerating the transition from old-format entertainment to new formats, the COVID-19 pandemic has shown competition among different media for users’ attention.

About a decade ago, users often had to use a variety of media for entertainment, such as video players, gaming computers, or music stereos. But today, all services can be integrated into a smartphone.

Vaccine Covid

In addition, when the “closed-door” measures are removed, the direct “competitors” of indoor entertainment will be activities such as basketball, frisbee, and entertainment spots public play. 

The competition is most evident in the audio segment. During the pandemic in 2020, figures show that people are turning to audio media more, from music to podcasts to audiobooks. However, the music segment’s share of total audio services declined.

When the pandemic began, podcasts and audiobooks accounted for only a fifth of total listening. By the end of last year, this market share had grown to a quarter, according to data from MIDiA. And when things get back to normal, there’s some evidence that users tend to stick with these new options instead of reverting to music alone.

In April 2021, Spotify said that podcast listeners had reached an all-time high in the total number of listeners recorded by the digital music service provider. This trend is in the interests of streaming companies because while most songs are copyrighted by record labels, the podcast segment can become the private property of companies.

This gives them the means to differentiate themselves from the competition while also enhancing profits, such as “Call Her Daddy” and “The Joe Rogan Experience” being two exclusive podcasts only mined by Spotify.

Expectations for a “loving” summer

Besides podcasts and audiobooks, the video game sector is also a “big winner” during the pandemic. The amount of additional time per week users spent playing games last year recorded the largest increase of any other form of entertainment.

And unlike some forms of entertainment that are favored only during the shutdown, the taste for games seems to show no sign of dying when life returns to normal.

Expert Craig Chapple said that playing games have become “a hard habit to break”. He found that last year, 56.2 billion gaming apps were downloaded and installed, a third more than in 2019 and more than three times the growth rate of the previous year. 

The first quarter of 2021 recorded more downloads than any other quarter of 2020. Roblox, a platform for creating and sharing video games, reported that in the first quarter of 2021, users spent nearly 10 years. Billion hours of use of the platform, which is almost double the number of hours spent in the same period in 2020.

The popularity of games is mainly driven by Generation Z – those under 25 make up most of Roblox’s user base.

A February poll by financial services provider Deloitte found that while all other generations of Americans view television and movies as their favorite forms of home entertainment, Generation Z ranks these two forms last, behind video games, music, websites, and social media.

Over time, “the dominant position held by video entertainment could be challenged,” argues Deloitte. Along with that, the post-pandemic change is also being felt in social networking platforms. According to statistics, users spent 40 more minutes per week surfing social networking sites last year, 30 minutes more reading news (sometimes through social media platforms).

In April 2021, Facebook said that the increased engagement it saw in 2020 was decreasing as the easing measures were announced. Meanwhile, Snapchat reported the opposite.

Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snapchat, told investors that when the lockdown was lifted in the US at the end of February, the volume of content posted on Snapchat increased.

The director said that since the end of March, the rate of making new friends has increased as people start to socialize more in real life. “There doesn’t seem to be any concern that trends in social media usage will erode once economies open up,” said Michael Nathanson, an analyst at MoffettNathanson. With more people having the opportunity to meet face-to-face, this trend could really increase.”

Another interesting thing is that perhaps the biggest “winner” among social networking platforms is dating apps. Match Group, which owns Tinder, reported that its new sign-ups dropped in April 2020, during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in December, amid the second wave of the pandemic.

Now, however, everything seems to have changed. So far, the number of registrations to use the new service in 2021 has increased by about 10% compared to the time before the pandemic. In February, the number of messages sent increased by almost 20% from a year earlier. As people’s attention shifts from “virtual world” to real life, a “summer of love” is probably what Match Group is aiming for.

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