CES 2021: How The Way We Watch TV Has Changed

Many new streamers… will they stick around?

Hand holding a remote control in the foreground with a blurred out TV in the background

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Key Takeaways

  • TV viewing habits changed as streaming took off during COVID shutdowns.
  • TV watchers are smarter and savvier in the post-pandemic era.
  • Having a quality library is just as important as original content.
Hand holding a remote control in the foreground with a blurred out TV in the background
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Waiting for your favorite show to come on is a thing of the past as streaming becomes more popular and television audiences know exactly what they want to watch before they sit down. 

Streaming services have seen a 400% increase in subscribers since March 2020, according to information presented during an official streaming session at the virtually hosted 2021 Consumer Electronics Show. The pandemic accelerated a move to streaming for many, old and young, as services like Starz and HBO Max adjust to a new customer base that is savvier than ever before. That, or risk being left behind for newer options. With all the options available to users now, Sandeep Gupta, vice president and general manager of Amazon's Fire TV, hopes to offer as simple a product as possible. 

“With COVID, we had to reimagine how people were using their TVs,” Gupta said during the presentation on Tuesday. 

What People Were Watching 

There reportedly has been a huge increase in Peloton app usage during the pandemic, and shopping and cooking programs have seen major bumps, as well. Gupta also saw a rise in educational programs and local news for the Fire TV. 

His key takeaway was how differently users stream compared with how they used to watch TV. 

People today don’t scroll through lists to watch whatever is on anymore, he explained. They know what they want and how to get it. 

“Users really choose what they want and COVID really accelerated that decision-making,” he said. 

One of the focuses for Fire TV has been making the product as easy as possible to use for the average consumer. 

“There’s lots of new original content, but it is not the easiest to find,” he said.

Fire TV initially was created six years ago to make finding content and streaming as easy as possible. While it doesn't offer its own original programming, Amazon's service gives you a single place to go to stream Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, and all the other top streaming apps. 

“We’re looking for the easiest way to navigate and find what you are looking for,” he added. 

TV Watchers are Smarter and More Engaged Than Ever

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During the presentation, Stefanie Meyers, senior vice president of distribution at Starz, said that streaming services have learned they need to serve their audiences more dynamically and on a deeper level than traditional media used to. 

She used as an example the show Power, which just finished its sixth season last February and now has a spin-off series called Power Book II: Ghost, which began streaming in September. 

Power was a huge hit,” Meyers said. “We now have an expanded universe with multiple spinoffs and we continue to service our fans and fan base for years to come.”

She said the hope is to build off the Power audience that has been growing since it first aired in 2014, and give viewers the content they want. 

We look for the person using the device to tell us what they are looking for.

Starz is hardly the only company to be using that model, of course. WandaVision, the first Disney television show set in the MCU (the Marvel Cinematic Universe), is set to debut on Friday. 

WarnerMedia’s Sarah Lyons agrees that audiences know what they want. She cited research showing that two-thirds of HBO Max users know what they are looking for when they sign in. 

“They may be a habitual viewer, watching a new episode of their favorite TV show, tuning into a movie…In those instances, we want to get out of their way and make it as easy as possible to get to what they want,” she explained. 

The other third of the time, they are looking for something new, and that’s where the presentation for streaming services comes into play. 

Gupta said he works with companies like Warner and Starz for content integration to make it as simple an experience as possible for the user to find what they are seeking. 

Whether the streaming platform drives discovery or the user finds what they want to watch on their own depends on the user. 

For the Fire TV, the user determines the experience. 

“We look for the person using the device to tell us what they are looking for,” Gupta added.

New Content Versus Strong Library

“Original programs draw people in but you need a good library to keep them satisfied,” Meyers noted. 

She said that Starz needs deep and diverse movie and series libraries to keep its customers and their families satisfied. 

“We know we need a stacked library to satisfy all user groups,” she said.

Meyers agreed with Lyons and said that every user has a different mindset when they log onto the service. 

“The key is to help them with discovery,” Gupta added. 

Want more? See all our coverage of CES 2021 right here.

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