How COVID-19 Has Changed What We Watch and How We Watch It

During the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ushered in significant changes to media consumption habits and how major entertainment companies promote and display their offerings, we have watched considerable changes occur in at-home entertainment viewing.

“This pandemic has forced consumers to recalibrate their entire lives,” says University of Virginia Darden School of Business professor Anthony Palomba. Professor Palomba is an expert in media management. This interdisciplinary academic discipline examines how audiences consume media and entertainment products and services, as well as how entertainment companies compete amid shifting consumer preferences.

“What matters to them? What doesn’t? I think consumers are getting to know themselves a bit more. Rather than being told what is good by advertisers, they have to consider for themselves what is good,” said Palomba.

We are all consumers. We have been stopped in our tracks for nearly an entire year. We have reprioritized our lives. This impinges upon advertisers’ and marketers’ abilities to consistently reach and speak to us.

Professor Palomba continues: “Consumers’ acumen over available entertainment and media options has risen quite a bit. Consumers have had more time at home to watch, view, subscribe and try out these options. Marketers must consider how to position entertainment products and services to consumers who have greater market awareness. More consumers have begun to consume digital entertainment, and podcast audiences have swelled while consumers work from home. There is also intensified yearning for immersive escapes into other worlds and realms, which I think has fueled interest in the PlayStation 5.”

“Consumers are seeking entertainment brands that they can trust. It is astounding to think that Disney + got to 50 million subscribers in five months. It took Netflix seven years to reach that milestone. This business feat is symbolic of consumers’ predominant need to find trusted, feel-good, high-quality brands as consumers reconcile bills against unemployment, salary cuts, and other unknowns.”

This leads to a question: Do consumers enjoy searching for videos and finding the unexpected? With colossal and meticulous algorithms used to determine consumer preferences on streaming video on demand platforms and new [streaming video on demand] program advertisements, the joy of discovery may very well be undermined for consumers. Part of the human experience is discovery. Ensconced in the unknown, will we find something meaningful? Past studies have illustrated that engaging in discovery and exploratory activities is restorative and renews our perspectives about ourselves, giving us confidence and a better feeling about our future.

Now, more than ever, consumers need reasons to be lost in discovery.

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