US Time Spent with Media 2021 Update

Pivotal Moments for TV, Subscription OTT, Digital Audio, and Social Media

About This Report
This report reviews our final 2020 numbers and new 2021 forecast for US time spent with media, highlighting pre- and post-pandemic estimates and expectations. Special attention is paid to TV, connected TV, OTT, digital audio, and social media.

Executive Summary

A pandemic-disrupted 2020 led to even more time spent with digital media than we anticipated. US adults spent an average of 7 hours, 50 minutes (7:50) per day with digital last year, a 15.0% increase from 2019. That growth will mostly be retained in 2021.

Which time spent categories were the big winners in 2020?

Time spent with connected TV (CTV) increased 33.8% to 1:17 per day in 2020. This was largely driven by the explosive popularity of subscription OTT services, where time spent among US adults increased by a nearly identical 33.9% to 1:12 minutes per day. Among subscription OTT users, average time spent skyrocketed to 1:50 per day. Smartphone time also increased substantially last year, climbing 16.6%.

Which categories will hold on to 2020’s gains in 2021, and which will not?

Time spent with digital video, smartphones, CTV, subscription OTT, and digital audio will maintain their gains and continue claiming even more time going forward in many cases. Traditional TV, nearly every social network, tablets, and desktops/laptops will give back some of their 2020 gains.

Which time spent metric was the most surprising given expectations?

Earlier in the pandemic, we expected digital audio to have a very rough year. The loss of commuting time was expected to constrain growth dramatically. It didn’t turn out that way; time spent with digital audio increased 8.3% to 1:29 per day. And it’s expected to increase another 4.8% this year.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report updates and explains our final 2020 US time spent with media numbers and presents our 2021 forecast for the same. The analysis also describes the pandemic’s impact last year and explores how its eventual ebbing will affect 2021’s figures.

KEY STAT: US adults spent 13:38 per day with media in 2020. Of this total, 7:50 was spent with digital media. By 2022, time spent with digital media will account for 60.2% of total US media time.

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Ethan Cramer-Flood


Zach Goldner
Junior Forecasting Analyst
Oscar Orozco
Senior Forecasting Analyst

"Behind the Numbers" Podcast