Aussies turn to streaming during lockdown

During lockdown digital services like Netflix kept Australians informed and entertained.
During lockdown digital services like Netflix kept Australians informed and entertained.

The global COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has cemented the dominance of streaming services in Australians' lives as people indulged an insatiable appetite for digital entertainment.

Deloitte Australia's annual Media Consumer Survey focused on consumer behaviours specific to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions between March and May.

As Australians hunkered down, digital services took a starring role in keeping them informed and entertained in the absence of live music, sport, cinema and performing arts.

Deloitte's Kimberly Chang said the survey examined how behaviours shifted as a result of the pandemic and which ones could have a lasting effect.

"While the lockdown period provided acceleration for streaming services, increased audiences for television news and renewed appetites for digital entertainment such as live-streaming, the fact remains there's no substitute for live entertainment," she said.

Deloitte Digital Media Sector Leader Leora Nevezie said 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.

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," Ms Nevezie said.

The effect of COVID-19 has also exposed opportunities to engage differently with audiences, Ms Nevezie said.

Live-streaming experienced heightened popularity as typically out-of-home events had no choice but to shift to a screen within our 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.

Australia is a nation of sporting fans, and 47 per cent of those surveyed indicating they actively followed sports on a weekly basis. On average, sports fans spent nearly six hours watching sport per week prior to COVID-19.

Ms Nevezie said without live sport, time spent watching sports halved to two-and-a-half hours per week, with the number of respondents actively following sport on a weekly basis dropping from 46 per cent to 25 per cent.

"Respondents expected their in-home viewing habits to return to exactly the same levels as pre COVID-19 (six hours per week) once all restrictions are lifted, and early indications suggest this is indeed beginning to play out as many sports begin to return in some form."

Without live sport fans turned elsewhere to fill their time. Fifty per cent instead spent time keeping up with breaking news, 33 per cent spent extra time with family and friends, 32 per cent exercised, while 31 per cent watched previously released shows and movies.

It comes as little surprise viewers turned to streaming during lockdown, with a 39 per cent increase in the hours spent watching paid movie and television streaming services.

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 also created an appetite for 'Isoscriptions', with 10 per cent of respondents signing up to a new streaming video service during the period. That was almost double among those who already had at least one service, where 17 per cent of those added an additional one.

With the news events of 2020, from bushfires to COVID, Australians binged on news content updates on the small screen and social channels, and that was reflected in an overall increase in all news sources across all demographics during lockdown.

Of the survey respondents 66 per cent used television as a daily news source, and more than a third used it multiple times a day.

"Increased watching of television news was consistent across all demographics, with more than 41 per cent reporting using television more as a source of news."

Australian Associated Press