With a global pandemic upon us, news, rather than film, is the must-see event of 2020, according to the latest Deloitte Australia Media Consumer Survey.
From COVID-19 to bushfires, Australians have binged on news content updates on the small screen and social channels, reflected in an overall increase in all news sources across all demographics during lockdown.
“Press conferences became appointment viewing during lockdown and television was the biggest winner with 90 per cent of respondents using it to get news,” said Deloitte digital media sector leader, Leora Nevezie.
The pandemic, which has seen people living in lockdown and working from home, live events suspended and a rolling crisis, has boosted all digital entertainment with increased use of streaming services, increased audiences for television news and renewed appetites for digital entertainment. However, the survey found there’s no substitute for live entertainment, with people still preferring going out to events.
Nevezie said this was a time when much of the industry was forced to rely almost solely on digital to reach consumers and audiences, and many perceived limitations and preconceptions were tested. “The survey gives us an insight into some of the key challenges but also the enormous opportunities ahead, as the media and entertainment industry re-shapes, rebuilds, and reforms,” Nevezie said.
The ninth Media Consumer Survey focuses on consumer behaviours specific to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions in Australia between March and May this year. The research identified behavioural shifts in media consumption as Australians settled into their homes and digital took a starring role in keeping them informed and entertained, in the absence of live music, sport, cinema and performing arts.
The show must go on
Of the 2000 Australians surveyed by Deloitte, 53 per cent expect to attend live events more frequently post restrictions, compared to pre-pandemic levels, but there is likely to be a period of adjustment.
“There are still plenty of challenges ahead with social distancing, reduced capacities and international border closures,” Nevezie said. “The good news is Australians love to be entertained and we want to go back to the same levels, if not greater, than post COVID restrictions,” she said.
Thirteen per cent of respondents reported an intended drop in hours spent going to the cinema after restrictions lift. It likely indicates the challenges ahead in swiftly drawing audiences back to physical spaces in significant numbers.
“As the out-of-home entertainment industry begins to reopen and recover, future audience development will need to take into account factors like trust and perception to meet post COVID-19 expectations, Nevezie said. “The physical experience of attending in-person events, not just the ‘main act’ itself, will be more important than ever.”
Streaming throws a lifeline to live events
Live-streaming events have been embraced as people have had no choice but to shift to a screen within their homes. Twenty-three per cent of respondents said they had live-streamed during lockdown and 50 per cent of these did so for the first time ever. However, only seven per cent of respondents said they would be willing to pay for live-streamed music gigs and performances, while 18 per cent said they might for the right one.
“The numbers are not discouraging and there is plenty of room for growth, but in the immediate future, it’s important to realise just how essential the live element is for both audiences and the industry,” Nevezie said.
“For most artists live-streaming revenues in the immediate future are unlikely to compare to live performances as a ‘revenue headline act.’ But as a support act, they could be an excellent tool for remaining connected with their fan base and even reaching a whole new virtual audience.”
Meanwhile, a night out to see the latest blockbuster on the big screen continues to be worth the price of admission, said Nevezie. Nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed said they would prefer to watch a movie at the cinema, compared to just three per cent of people who want to watch a film at the same time as a cinema release for more than the cost of a ticket.
Waiting three to six months to watch it on a paid subscription service was the clear paid home viewing favourite, with 26 per cent of all respondents favouring this option.
Ms Nevezie said this highlights the commercial challenges of premium video-on-demand in price points and consumer expectations, but also our enduring love of the cinema experience. “The appetite for home viewing is certainly there, but Australian consumers now seem to associate home viewing with cheaper all-you-can-eat subscription services rather than paying premium prices,” she said.
Streaming success is all about the content
Not surprisingly, there has been a 39 per cent increase in the hours spent watching paid movie and television streaming services. And Australia’s love of video streaming services continued to grow, with 55 per cent of respondents having at least one paid video streaming service in their household. It represents continued growth, but at a slower rate than in previous years.
Lockdown created an appetite for ‘Isoscriptions’ when 10 per cent of respondents signed up to a new streaming video service during this particular period. This was almost double among those who already had at least one service, where 17 per cent of those added an additional one. Forty-six per cent of video streamers now have at least two paid subscriptions, and 16 per cent have three or more.
Nevezie said this hints future growth will come from the addition of new services by existing subscribers, and whether they maintain these ‘polystreaming relationships’. “Where there was once debate as to whether Australia could sustain more than one or two video streaming services, this leaves little doubt of the consumer demand for multiple services,” she said.
But trading one service for another or cancelling a subscription altogether is a relatively easy prospect for households and for services to continue to grow, the depth and recency of content will be important, with 61 per cent of respondents and 55 per cent of respondents ranking them in their top three factors respectively.
Covid could also have an unexpected positive effect on the local TV and film industry. Nevezie said it could be an ideal time for platform’s to tap into local content to boost content libraries and retain subscriptions.
“In a time where impact has never felt more global, sentiment has turned local and sentiment for Australian screen content remains strong,” she said.
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