As coronavirus locked our doors and turned our lives around, one global viewing trend emerged: we all watched more content.
In the US, unmatched viewing increased by 74% at its peak and now accounts for more than a quarter of all television usage in the US. Of course, the streamers benefitted too, with Netflix adding 16m+ new subscribers globally while Disney+ attracted more than 54m subscribers in its first six months of operation.
So what was everyone watching?
The world needed entertaining and with families spending more time together, co-viewing became the norm. Pure entertainment and talent shows, the kind of content that appeals to viewers of all generations, performed really well.
A genre that has really stood the test of time, and proved popular across the summer in the UK was the game show. Staying indoors meant that audiences were seeking pure escapist content, and during lockdown, game shows proved their versatility. They are excellent family-friendly viewing and made a refreshing change to the everyday situation. Epic Gameshow, produced by Fremantle’s label Talkback, was a huge success for ITV when it launched in June. It took popular formats with the nostalgia factor, such as The Price is Right and Play Your Cards Right, and supersized them for primetime audiences. It averaged an incredible 4.6m viewers across the series and was consistently the highest rating show of the day.
spending more time together,
We also launched a new game show Rolling In It in August, where the contestant’s chances of going home with a cash prize are decided by the roll of a dice. Audiences couldn’t get enough, and the first episode was watched by 3.4m viewers – the highest rating show of the day. It achieved an amazing 37.8% share for the coveted 16-24 demographic, up 159% on the channel’s summer slot average.
As pre-recorded shows ran out, audiences suddenly started to see TV filmed remotely from home. Covid‑content became the norm, everything featured the familiar Zoom boxes on screen that we’d all become used to for work, home schooling, socialising and even exercising. But we noticed that Covid-content just wasn’t really working with audiences. Yes, it filled schedules, but audiences didn’t want to watch Zoom-style shows. In fact, our research showed that people would prefer to watch a rerun instead.
When American Idol got to its live shows, we had no choice but to go as big as we could under the current guidelines. Knowing that audiences were bored of Zoom, but still having to produce remotely, we sent 120 iPhones to the contestants’ and judges’ houses with a full production kit and how-to guide. We even shipped confetti cannons in the post! Audiences understood why we had to do this, and yes it looked different, but a big show like Idol still demands high production values. And it paid off, after 35 days of delayed viewing across linear and digital platforms, American Idol averaged a 2.3 rating with Adults aged 18- 49, up by 5% over the prior season. In addition, American Idol delivered a total multiplatform average audience of 10.1 million Total Viewers.
We’ve also seen a trend for content featuring ‘real people’, shows which highlight the everyday person doing extraordinary things and sharing their passions with the world.
In a time where healthcare professionals and supermarket staff became our real-life heroes, this was mirrored in the content that audiences wanted to see.
At Fremantle, we’re proud that for decades our talent shows have given people from all backgrounds a voice and their moment to shine and that whatever their race, ethnicity, religion or physical ability they have an equal shot of making it on screen.
As the world navigates a pandemic, a global movement and an impending financial recession, society could become more and more divided. We need to continue to tell stories of hope and inclusiveness to bring families and communities together.
When looking at trends, there is a universal appetite for quality, escapist, feel-good content. We can learn so much about society from what its viewing habits tell us. It’s been fascinating to pull this piece together; to take a long view at what we’ve witnessed over the last few months and to learn more about a time that has challenged and united us all.
to tell stories of hope
and inclusiveness to
and communities together.