2020 puts streaming front and center as homes turn into offices, schools and gyms
The lockdowns this year have transformed our homes into offices, schools, concert halls, movie theaters and gyms. Our homes are working harder for us, but so is our technology. We're turning to our TVs, smart speakers, tablets, and computers in new and surprising ways accelerating trends in at-home fitness, cord cutting, and streaming of ad-supported free content.
The device that is working the hardest is perhaps the TV—becoming our lifeline to a far more virtual world.
TVs have become smarter over time without much fanfare, but these big glass screens are no longer just a portal into a binge-worthy show. TVs and streaming media players like Fire TV are now foundational centerpieces to our at-home lives. This is a watershed for these often-overlooked devices, which have quickly adapted to COVID's impact on daily routines and on consumers' accelerated cord-cutting habits.
"This year was an expedited study in streaming trends, accelerating cord-cutting by at least a year," Sandeep Gupta, VP of Amazon Fire TV said. "Our customers are streaming billions of hours of content every month. We have had to remain agile and learn from our customers about what they are are asking for and how best to evolve Fire TV in order to meet their needs. Never before has the TV been such a critical component of the home, delivering new content and discovering new categories to adapt to our new lifestyles."
Streaming on the rise
Streaming proliferation has continued to rise steadily over the last 5 years, but 2020 has proved to be the year of the cord cutter. According to eMarketer there are now over 31.2 million US households that have cut the cord, a 27% increase. This is predicted to rise to 46.6M by 2024.
Americans are replacing their cable boxes with streaming media players and smart TVs that are home to thousands of apps and channels. With a mix of pay TV subscriptions, free ad-supported apps, and the infinite app stores on these devices; streamers are hard put not to find something to watch.
Beyond the fact that we're spending more time in front of our TVs for a sense of escape, data from Amazon indicated that the way we're using our TVs is also changing.
Unexpected TV trends
Spending many more hours at home, consumers are broadening their perspectives on what at-home entertainment now means for them. Binge-watching TV shows have predictably exploded, as families seeking togetherness in unsettling times gather around what has become the hub of the home.
On top of this, consumers have come to expect that their traditional out-of-home activities now be streamed, often live, to the big screen as well.
We have seen streaming consumption not only explode this year but new categories emerge – such as cooking, fitness, education and news consumption -Sandeep Gupta
Parents have turned increasingly to education apps to support children forced to study online because of shuttered schools. Searches for basic math and grammar questions — as fielded by personal assistant devices such as Alexa — have spiked this year as students or stand-in parent-teachers manage a new concept of "homework." According to Gupta, some educational apps saw increased usage upwards of 400% this year as parents turn to Fire TV to help with supplemental learning.
Peloton's digital subscription has become a popular gym replacement offering live and on-demand workouts from the safety of your own living room. Amazon says that fitness apps worldwide are also growing rapidly. As early as May of this year, most fitness apps on Fire TV had doubled in popularity.
News apps streamed through our TVs have also proliferated, as audiences show a barely satiable appetite for up-to-the-minute information, especially about the world's worst pandemic in a decade and the most polarizing U.S. presidential election in memory. Amazon's news app, which hosts free news from CBS News, ABC News Live, HuffPost, Reuters and more, is the #1 most used news app on Fire TV and continues to exceed expectations, according to Gupta.
Omdia, a company researching the media and entertainment sector, reported that the lockdowns have been a game-changer: "The global COVID-19 pandemic has sped up underlying trends in TV and online video across all markets. The principal result is a general push for all things online video, now projecting ahead of the expected curve, and pay-TV cord-cutting has entered a new phase of acceleration. Audiences living under lockdown have increased the time spent watching video streams, firstly by watching more content than normal on their existing SVOD [subscription video on demand] services. Many households are also testing newly launched next-gen services and/or adding a second or third subscription."
Gupta explained how Amazon is continuing to adapt to the new paradigm. "In a time where the world is seeking new ways to stay connected, stay positive and stay informed, access to all types of content is becoming more and more critical. We wanted to make this available to everyone and this year we introduced our latest and most affordable Fire TV Stick Lite ($29.99) to help do so."
Fire TV customers will also soon have access to their favorite games with the introduction of Amazon's cloud gaming platform, Luna. "We know our customers love to play games, which has inspired us to create something they can enjoy at home in their living rooms," said Gabi Knight, director of Amazon Luna. "Our customers have all these beautiful screens in their homes, some of which are already connected for Fire TVs. When you think of the complete entertainment experience that includes gaming. And with Luna we have created a way to make gaming easier and more affordable than ever before."
COVID-19 has forced the world to adapt to a new normal of periodic lockdowns that appears set to persist through the Northern Hemisphere's winter. As we hunker down during this holiday season — an end-of-year like no other — we will also be experiencing our new home-office-school-gym through streaming services that have upended our notion of what we do and don't do indoors.