COVID-19: Trends in media consumption.

Throughout social distancing, sheltering-in-place and now the gradual, phased reopening of communities, there has been a dramatic shift in how, when and why we consume media. Weekly, we receive updated data, facts and figures regarding media consumption trends and forecasts for which changes may stay long after restrictions are ended. While the data varies weekly, there are some overall trends that are consistent week-to-week.

This stat sums it up well: 78 percent of U.S. consumers say they are spending more time using at least one digital device since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.1

Media consumption is not the same across generations; Global Web Index surveyed almost 4,000 internet users aged 16-64 and saw vast differences in how each generation’s media habits had changed during the pandemic.

Percent who say they’ve started consuming or are consuming more of the following since the outbreak:1


  • More than half of Gen Z is consuming significantly more online video content than before the outbreak. And, Millennials and Gen X are also up considerably.
  • Gen X has been watching more TV more than any other generation. Also watching TV online and consuming more online videos and press than before.
  • Video, whether broadcast TV, online videos or online TV are all up significantly among all generations, except Boomers, who rely most on broadcast TV.
  • Millennials have the most breadth in increased media consumption, leaving great options to have a balanced media mix to reach this audience.

Maybe even more interesting than the consumption habits are that people intend to continue their modified media consumption habits after the outbreak ends. Seventy-six percent of U.S. online video watchers say they plan to consume just as much of this content when the outbreak is over.1 According to another source, 38 percent of consumers say they are watching more video content (YouTube/TikTok) and 73 percent of those plan to continue after the outbreak.4

Activities trends during quarantine.

According to a recent study from McKinsey & Company, consumers are shifting their time away from work and toward news and entertainment. When asked, “Over the next two weeks, how much time do you expect to spend on these activities compared to how much time you normally spend on them?” There was a increase in new TV, movies, cooking and a startling decrease in the projected consumption of reading print news.5

Mobile gaming.

Due to the shift from working and learning to entertainment, video games (including mobile games via apps) have seen unprecedented growth during the pandemic. Twenty-three percent of those surveyed said that they are playing new games on their smartphones and 33 percent play mobile games multiple times per day. 2

During the first week of social distancing, there were 858 million app downloads. Card, word and board game categories have seen the most notable surge in app downloads. 3

So, who is playing these mobile games? The below table summarizes mobile gamers by age.

  • 37 percent have a higher HH income ($85k vs. $62k U.S. average)
  • Two-times more likely to have a four-year degree or more (33.4 percent U.S. average)
  • 66 percent identify as the household decision-maker (50 per U.S. average)

It’s time to consider including app and mobile game advertising for your media mix. Consider appropriate brand protections to ensure the brand isn’t aligned with content that undermines the brand position, such as gambling.

While some of the U.S. is beginning to shift to various phases of reopening, many areas are still under shelter-in-place orders. Those at home are likely continuing to find solace in entertainment from home such as streaming TV and movies, browsing social media and online gaming. If you’ve been hesitant to explore digital advertising like digital display, pre-roll, ConnectedTV and paid social media—now is the time to test the waters while a larger audience than normal are consuming media via these channels.


  1. GlobalWebIndex
  2. Coronavirus Impact Survey, Week of 3/23, Centro
  3. Apptopia, March 15-26, 2020