For more than a year, people around the world have been condemned to sit at home, with no access to entertainment and limited mobility. Their professional and social lives shifted to the online realm overnight. High-speed Internet connections and the cloud have become a passageway to this new normal, enabling new ways to access work, friends’ information, and ultimately recreation. The acceleration of the vaccine campaign seems to herald the imminent end of this era. And it begs the question – have we become accustomed enough to stream life to stay in it?
Netflix, YouTube, HBO GO, Ipla, Player, Disney + czy Apple TV are a remedy for quarantine boredom, and Teams (145 million daily active users in 2020) and Zoom have allowed us to move into home office mode. We listen to podcasts and Spotify instead of the radio, we watch plays and concerts online, we get a telephone consultation instead of seeing an actual doctor, and we take care of our shape thanks to fitness apps. The group of active Tik Tok users is getting older (in 2020 it increased by 46% among millenials), Twitch and Discord are experiencing a boom, and audio-streaming is growing in strength. A few months ago Clubhouse was created, which on the one hand is elitist (limited for IOS users with an invitation from an active user), and on the other hand allows you to talk freely with a journalist, athlete or celebrity. And it doesn’t stop there. Facebook announced that it will be launching an app modeled after Clubhouse. Spotify has acquired Locker Room, a sports platform for live audio conversations, which it will make similar to Clubhouse or Twitter Spaces*. Spotify will also use its machine learning technology to organize live audio-streaming and deliver programming to users based on their interests, potentially giving it an edge over competitors. Discord with its Stage channels is coming up right behind it.
New video and audio streaming applications are popping up like mushrooms. In the face of the post-pandemic deterioration of the mental health of societies (in Poland nearly half of all schoolchildren and more than 1/3 of their parents declare a negative impact of the pandemic on their well-being), such as Afterglow with its exclusively positive content, or Mindy, a home-grown startup that activates a mode of calm mind.
The niche domain of streaming, previously reserved for gamers, has become everyone’s domain in the new normal. Zoom was downloaded by 3.2 million users in the first week of pandemic in the U.S. alone, Netflix attracted 15.77 million new subscribers in Q1 2020. (up 23% yoy), and Clubhouse was downloaded 16 million times over the course of the year.
These increases are accompanied by further activation and growth in the number of influencers, with nearly half of Poles declaring that they watch more influencers than before C-19. It is influencers who have helped spread the pandemic trend for live – streaming or Q&A sessions for brands, which in China has already gone a step further, taking the form of live -shopping, or selling during an online broadcast. The salesperson can address the customer’s concerns in real time, and the customer feels like they are buying the item seen on screen. The total value of live e-commerce has reached nearly USD 130 billion in the Middle Kingdom by 2020. According to a report by Accenture, over 30% of Generation Z and 40% of Millenials in Poland declare their willingness to participate in live shopping.
Quo vadis streaming?
New waves of pandemics or new varieties of C-19 may cause people to be less active in the outside world, and the “new normal” may result in an increased presence in digital channels. Whether we’ll still be working from home offices, shopping online or avoiding air travel in 2022 remains to be seen. Will the streaming bubble burst under these circumstances? Some experts suggest that when people can finally swap their homes for concerts, sporting events or vacations and entertainment, content consumption will decline. At that point, the fragmented nature of monthly subscription fees across multiple platforms could be challenged by consumers, and Netflix could see its smallest growth since 2015.
On the other hand, when video and audio streaming services built their audiences in 2020, they offered the most ambitious programming ever. Audiences won’t suddenly lose their appetite for it. Cloud services that enable streaming should remain competitive. Their providers will likely adjust to the new, volatile normal. According to U.S. forecasts, streaming video alone will account for 82% of all Internet traffic by 2022. Not surprisingly, this cloud computing has made it easier than ever for viewers to access content from their TVs, gaming devices, laptops and smartphones. In media and entertainment, this realignment may initially look like a slump that will last until consumers set their priorities. But over time, the curve should trend upward, predicts consulting firm PwC in its “Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020-2024.”
So in the spring of 2021, we can’t give a clear answer to the question of what will happen with the streaming boom. Intuition tells us that, as in life – a little of this, a little of that. We’ll stay with series on Netflix or Player, instead of going to Berlin we’ll call the hub on Teams, out of curiosity we’ll use novelties like Clubhouse and mindfulness apps, but we’ll let a doctor examine us, fly on vacation or meet friends at the office with pleasure.
* A forum for live discussions on music, culture and all types of topics
“2020 China’s E-commerce Livestreaming Ecology Report” – raport iResearch
Accenture “Postpandemic Generation – online or offline”, 2021