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Ad-Supported Media Engagement Slips as Consumers Cut Back, Report Finds

Published on Apr 18, 2023

Ad-Supported Media Engagement Slips as Consumers Cut Back, Report Finds
Marketing Dive
Marketing Dive

Dive Brief:

  • Media-usage trends stabilized closer to pre-pandemic levels in 2022, though certain channels are primed to come under greater pressure in the months ahead, according to the latest edition of PQ Media’s Global Consumer Media Usage Forecast
  • Global consumers spent 7.97 hours per day with media in 2022, up from 7.14 hours per day in 2017. Major cyclical events, including the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, Winter Olympics in China and closely watched U.S. midterm elections, helped spur growth last year.
  • Ad-supported media commanded less time than it did in 2017, a potentially worrying sign for streaming platforms eyeing commercials as a source of revenue. Other indicators of a slowdown are apparent in digital device shipments as smartphone adoption nears saturation.  

Dive Insight:

Tracking media trends has become more challenging due to society-halting disruptions that have caused wild spikes and dips in engagement in the past few years. While media consumption recorded its fastest increase in 15 years in 2020 with the onset of the pandemic and associated lockdown measures, it then saw a “sharp deceleration” in 2021 as workers started returning to offices and students to school and extracurricular activities thanks to the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines. Last year again saw media engagement on the rise, with global consumer usage across digital and traditional channels growing 2.7% to hit 55.81 hours per week, according to PQ Media. 

The rate of growth for 2022 was higher than initially expected and put the market more in line with pre-pandemic levels, bolstered by destination viewing occasions like the World Cup and Winter Olympics that attracted passionate global audiences. At the same time, the year was affected by a souring economy in the second half that pushed many lower- and middle-income consumers to cut back on their choices, teeing up a bumpier 2023.  

With macroeconomic challenges persisting in 2023 and device categories like smartphones nearing a saturation point, growth might be harder to come by. Growth in mobile media consumption is forecast to slow to a single-digit rate this year for the first time since PQ Media started tracking the channel, CEO Patrick Quinn said in a statement. More-anemic mobile growth could roil social media platforms that are already contending with revenue headwinds and investing heavily in areas like short-form video that are popular with users but not as well-monetized as traditional feeds

Streamers also could feel a pinch after experiencing a harsh comedown in 2022. Many have cut back on their content expenditures due to the whiplash. Platforms like Disney+ and Netflix have recently introduced cheaper, ad-supported tiers to better monetize their costly streaming bets. PQ Media found that ad-supported media made up 53.7% of time spent in 2022, a drop from 58.5% in 2017. Netflix’s ad-supported offering reached 1 million monthly U.S. subscribers in March, Bloomberg previously reported, suggesting it has started to gain traction after a somewhat rocky launch. 

💰 Related Reading: Key Paid Advertising Strategies for 2023

PQ Media’s Quinn noted that the average consumer has cut back to about four over-the-top (OTT) subscriptions compared to six last year. The researcher added that the “gold rush” to capitalize on the shift to streaming in its myriad forms was “ultimately, a non-recurring, short-term, cyclical event with resulting blowback implications on the broader economy.”

Still, there are some bright spots for operators in the film and TV arena. When looking at live TV, streaming and over-the-top channels together, television remained the most-used media platform among the categories tracked by PQ Media.

Meanwhile, film and home video recorded the fastest rate of growth last year, reinforcing that consumers have returned to theaters for blockbuster hits like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water.” “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” notched the best-ever opening for an animated film last weekend with a global box office haul of $377 million

This article was written by Peter Adams from Marketing Dive and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].