As lockdown eases: How our habits of cultural consumption at home are changing

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The outbreak of COVID-19 and the halt on many cultural and creative activities, from live music, to museums, and cinemas, has changed the way that we experience content. 

During April-May 2020, while the UK was under lockdown, we ran a six-week study with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and Audience Net. We wanted to understand how people were consuming digital content at home and how their habits of cultural consumption had changed since pre COVID-19. 

Over the six-week period, we followed people's patterns of consumption of film, music, TV, video games, publishing, and even filmed performances of theatre and digital art. These sectors generate billions of pounds of value added for the UK economy through physical engagement with consumers and it was critically important to monitor the impact that the crisis has had on the Creative Industries.

Working with the IPO and Audience Net, we are continuing the study beyond the initial six-week period during lockdown. As lockdown eases, we are exploring the impact that COVID-19 is having on people's cultural consumption as they start to spend less time at home and as some cultural and creative institutions begin to reopen. Week seven of the study builds on the previous research and was ‘in the field’ shortly after lockdown restrictions were relaxed on the 4th July 2020. We will continue to follow people's cultural consumption during August and September. 

Key findings from week 7 of the study
  • When lockdown restrictions relaxed, the amount of time that people spent consuming the main content categories (TV, music, film, video games and e-books) remained broadly the same as the time spent during lockdown in April-May. People continued to spend the most time watching TV, followed by music and film. The amount of time spent playing video games reduced from 3 to 2 hours a day for the first time in the study.  
  • There was a noticeable increase in downloading content compared with streaming. For music, it was at the highest point it had been in the study. This could be an increased need for offline content as people spend more time outside of their homes.
  • The amount that people were streaming, in contrast to downloading, varied by category. Both film and TV were equal to their lowest points during lockdown, while music matched it’s previous peak.
  • Since lockdown eased, we saw higher levels of physical purchasing across a number of content categories. This was largest for music which, at 14%, was 6% higher than its previous peak in April.
  • There was an increase in people’s frequency of listening to the radio, compared to week 6. This increase was larger for listening offline (weekly listening was up by 5% to 51%) than for listening to radio online (up by 3% to 38%).
  • The end of lockdown did not appear to have a considerable impact in terms of whether content was being accessed through legal or illegal sources.
About the study

The PEC and the IPO commissioned AudienceNet to design and conduct a weekly nationally representative survey of 1000+ consumers on how they engage with digital cultural content in the home. The study ran for six weeks (9th April - 24th May 2020). Week 7 of the study builds on the previous research and ran shortly after lockdown restrictions were relaxed on the 4th July 2020, and is the first of three new waves taking place between July and September. Week 7 comprised of many of the same respondents who took part in weeks 1-6 (n=733). Unlike in previous weeks, however, more respondents were added to the cohort in order to ensure that the overall sample of each wave is representative and to correct for biases.

Published 26th August 2020

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