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In a Quarantine-Driven Recession, Will TV be a Luxury or a Necessity?

Overnight, we have found ourselves at home without access to the people and activities that normally keep us occupied in the outside world. Many of us aren’t there by ourselves – we have our kids there with us. Add a growing number who have lost or are worried about losing income, and the impact is profound.  

Consumers with a sudden need for hours of entertainment is a problem not without silver linings for the entertainment industry.  TV viewing on every platform is up, VOD rentals are up, and Netflix’s stock hit a 52-week high.  But as the disruption continues, how durable will these behaviors be?

On March 18 and 19, Hub surveyed 1,276 US consumers about their stay-at-home entertainment habits. We found that there are three things that predict greater engagement and willingness to spend on entertainment: 

If you personally know someone who has contracted COVID-19:   Sixty-eight percent of this group say they will add new TV subscriptions during this time – more than 3x as many as people in general. They were almost twice as likely to be interested in paying to watch new movies at home while theaters are closed.  

In March only 12% of respondents knew someone with COVID-19. But eventually everyone will know someone, and these attitudes will be the rule instead of the exception.     

If you have kids at home during the day because of the pandemic:  Thirty-eight percent of this group plan to add a new subscription, and more than half are very interested in paying for new theatrical releases to watch at home. The implication here is clear:  unoccupied kids are a problem (especially for those working at home), and one that people will happily pay to solve.

If you are worried about money: Forty percent of respondents said that they expect their income to drop because of the pandemic. But the impact on their entertainment choices isn’t what you might think – if you’re worried about finances, you’re actually more likely to spend extra time and money on entertainment.

  • 44% expect to spend “a lot” more time watching TV in the next month than they do now. (Among those who aren’t worried about their income, only 26% say the same).
  • 28% plan to sign up for at least one new TV subscription while stay-at-home measures are in place – fifty percent higher than respondents in general.
  • Almost half (46%) are *very interested* in watching early-release movies at home, vs. just a third of respondents in general.

These findings suggest that the more firsthand experience people have with the coronavirus, the greater their interest in things that make time at home palatable (especially among those with kids). And that, at least in the short term, those with income worries see TV subscriptions not as a luxury, but as an austerity measure to fill the gap caused by cutting more expensive pursuits.