Paid streaming services are getting a boost in subscriptions, with Americans looking for more home entertainment options during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new Nielsen Music/MRC Data report.
The latest installment of “COVID-19: Tracking the Impact on the Entertainment Landscape” is the sixth release since the surveys began in late March. Wave 6 data was collected during a July 8-13 online survey of more than 1,000 U.S. consumers ages 13 and older.
“People are relying on entertainment more than ever to stay informed, connected, and comforted and are spending more time with formats that provide these,” says Nielsen. “Interest in music streaming services has grown substantially as consumers are spending more time with music. Familiar content, especially music, continues to appeal to consumers seeking comfort.”
According to Nielsen, a substantial majority say they’re tired of hearing about the pandemic and are concerned about health and economic conditions. And more are turning to entertainment for relief: 39% say entertainment helps them feel comforted or feel better about COVID-19, a rise of five percentage points over the Wave 5 survey conducted the week of June 8. Thirty-two percent said entertainment makes them feel healthier — up 11 percentage points since the first survey period in March.
People are listening at home: Nielsen reports that more people are using smart speakers and desktop computers to listen to music. Each rose six percentage points (to 36% and 33% respectively), but both still lag behind smartphones (79%) and laptops (51%) for music consumption.
Nielsen says radio listeners are using smart speakers more than the general population and “are more likely to seek entertainment to feel energized, keep kids occupied, pass time with others, or find cheer.” Music is the most popular choice among radio listeners (93%); 52% listen to news and 24% to talk shows.
Music is showing the biggest gains: With people staying home, 56% tell Nielsen they’ve added a streaming music service like Spotify, Amazon Prime or Apple Music. That’s up 11 percentage points since June and 18 points higher than Wave 1 in March.
Radio (9%) and podcast subscriptions (13%) have been relatively static, each up one percentage point since March.
Variety is a strength for radio: While overall “interest in adding new subscription services remains constant,” Nielsen says, “more subscription adders [are] choosing radio as consumers are exploring new content.”
The study found a rise in music listening occurring on smart TVs and other devices normally used for video. “Music consumption is shifting drastically from audio to video as more are home and entertaining kids,” Nielsen says. Twenty-eight percent say they’re using 3D/smart TVs to listen to music — up 5 percentage points from the previous survey period.
Subscription services need to work for long-term renewals: While subs are rising, so are cancellations. Nielsen says 40% of respondents chose not to renew an audio or video subscription in the last two weeks. Because that’s “the highest total since the start of the pandemic,” says MSN.com’s Chris Eggertsen, “services may need to do more to retain their subscribers.”
(In July, Adweek assessed how streamers are testing different tactics to keep customers from canceling.)
Yet this may reflect more on competition among services than a willingness to spend for digital entertainment. According to Nielsen, 88% say they’re “likely to continue paying for added service after COVID-19” — the highest number yet.
Country, reggae and rock genres are gaining listeners: Nielsen reports a 14.2% jump in country music listenership since the start of the pandemic. “Additionally, reggae — typically a strong performer during the summer months — had the biggest gains in total weekly streams of any genre at 18.3%, suggesting consumers are looking to re-create those relaxing seasonal vibes even as typical outdoor summer activities have been curtailed,” Eggertsen says. Rock also rose by 1.5%, while Latin, dance/electronic, R&B/hip-hop and pop “continue to trend down.”