US Digital Users 2020

Some Media Activities Got a Pandemic Bump, Others Didn’t. Here’s Why.

Executive Summary

The number of people engaging with digital media activities such as gaming or live video is growing faster than was expected before the pandemic lockdown began. But other activities—such as social networking and digital video viewing—haven’t had a similar bump.

Which activities are gaining users the fastest?

On a percentage basis, the number of monthly US live video viewers, video game viewers, and subscription over-the-top (OTT) users will experience the largest pandemic-related bump in 2020, based on an analysis of our current forecast compared with our pre-pandemic forecast. Esports and podcasts are also gaining users quickly this year, but the pandemic isn’t the main reason for their growth.

Are these gains only temporary, or will they continue post-pandemic?

In most cases, an activity with larger-than-expected growth this year will continue to add users in succeeding years, but at a much slower pace than in 2020. That’s because the pandemic caused changes in consumer behavior that would not have happened so quickly otherwise.

Why aren’t common activities like digital video viewing, social networking, or mobile messaging gaining many new users?

Although engagement among current users has been extremely high, the pandemic hasn’t inspired very many non-users to start. More than four in five internet users watch digital video, leaving little room for growth. And most people who want to use social networks or mobile messaging services are already doing so.

Why does it matter that some activities aren’t experiencing a pandemic bump?

When consumers are drawn into a new activity, they often spend an outsize amount of time with it. As newer activities gain more users, this could drive shifts in engagement away from established activities.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report analyzes which digital media activities have gained users faster than expected during the pandemic and which haven’t.

KEY STAT: This year, the numbers of live video viewers, video game viewers, and subscription OTT users are growing faster than we expected. Other activities such as social networking have not seen a similar pandemic bump.

Here’s what’s in the full report


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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Digital Media Users and the Pandemic Bump
  3. Digital and Subscription OTT Video
  4. Social Media and Mobile Messaging
  1. Live Video and Esports
  2. Digital Gaming
  3. Digital Audio
  4. Key Takeaways
  1. Read Next
  2. Sources
  3. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

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Debra Aho Williamson, Ross Benes and Blake Droesch


Jasmine Enberg
Senior Analyst
Eric Haggstrom
Forecasting Analyst
Natalie McGranahan
Senior Researcher and Taxonomy Manager
Peter Newman
Monica Peart
Senior Director, Forecasting
Chuck Rawlings
Peter Vahle
Forecasting Analyst

"Behind the Numbers" Podcast