Are Americans Abandoning Binging for Social Media?

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LONDON & NEW YORK—New research on Americans’ media habits in 2021 suggests that consumers are spending less time bingeing on TV and devoting more time to social media 

Attest’s third annual “US Media Consumption” report polling 2,000 working-age Americans on their media habits found that social media is America’s favorite media in terms of the percentage of people who engage with it each day. About 92.6% of Americans spend some portion of their day on social media, followed by streaming TV services (82.8%) and music streaming (81.1%).  

But the report also found that as pandemic restrictions have lifted this year, binge-watching of both live TV and streaming content has seen marked declines. While Netflix still dominates streaming, the percentage of people engaging in five-hour+ bingeing sessions on streaming platforms is down from 25.9% in 2020 to just 12.4% in 2021, the report found. 

More Americans also stopped watching live TV for more than six hours (8.7%) compared to last year (18.8%). Meanwhile, nearly one in five consumers (19%) say they now watch no live TV in 2021, versus 14% in 2020. 

The survey also found a collapse in the consumption of TV news, potentially caused by pandemic fatigue and the conclusion of the Presidential election, with just under a third of Americans (31.8%) regularly tuning into news content in 2021, compared to 46.3% in 2020. 

This escape from reality is borne out by Americans saying comedy (51.1%), drama (49.8%) and crime (42.3%) programs are their favorite types of TV shows, the report found. 

In terms of social media, the Attest survey found that Americans’ favorite social media platform is YouTube, with 87% using the platform at least once during the month, followed by Facebook (81.9%). 

However, consumers are more likely to use Facebook on a daily basis (54.1%) compared to YouTube (45.3%). 

Meanwhile, TikTok saw substantial growth from 2020’s report with just under half of Americans using the platform at least once over a month (48.3%). 

The vast majority of consumers also appear to have missed the Clubhouse craze with 82.9% saying they never use the platform. 

Unsurprisingly, Gen Z (aged 18-25) used social media on a daily basis the most out of all those polled (at 96%), but the boomer generation (aged 55-66) came next (at 87%). 

In tandem with a decline in bingeing on TV content, Americans are listening to more radio this year, with just 10.9% saying they never listen to the radio (compared to 20% in 2020). Additionally, for the first time since this report was launched, more than half of consumers say they listen to podcasts (55.9%), compared to 48.7% in 2020. 

In terms of streaming the report found that Netflix dominates in the streaming wars, with nearly seven in ten Americans having a subscription (69.4%), followed by Amazon Prime (52%) and Disney Plus (36.9%).   

Over two-thirds (67.2%) of consumers say they do not have any paid-for content subscriptions for news media. Of the minority who do subscribe in 2021, digital subscriptions (19.5%) are only just ahead of print (18%). 

The data in the report is from research conducted on the Attest platform. The total sample size for this research was 2,000 nationally representative working-age consumers based in the United States. The survey concluded on 12 August 2021. 

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.