What you need to know

The end of 2020 saw people renew their interest in physical albums after a sharp drop at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with purchasing of CD albums up to 18% in the three months to December 2020 from 13% in the three months to July 2020. Already struggling physical media markets faced a significant blow from the pandemic, but physical video and music formats have had a slight bounce-back, despite disruption to retail. While overall physical media will continue to play a reduced role as digital dominates, there are indications that the formats still cannot be dismissed.

COVID-19 has had a big impact on the media landscape in varied ways. Print circulation of newspapers and magazines has fallen significantly, while TV viewership across various services has soared. Mintel’s research shows limited change between the spring/summer months of 2020 and the end of the year, with people’s media habits/purchases remaining fairly consistent, which is in line with the fact that people’s general lifestyles have been unable to change much. The overall story is one of an acceleration towards digital content across media sectors, albeit with physical markets showing more resilience than perhaps anticipated.

The growth of digital subscriptions has been one of the most positive media stories following the outbreak. This has been seen across sectors, including newspapers, music and video. The concern is, though, the potential impact of economic difficulties on people’s ability to pay for media subscriptions. Competition within the video subscription streaming market, which saw significant growth at the beginning of the pandemic, is set to become far fiercer.

People have spent more time on social media since the start of the pandemic. Many are though not simply using these platforms to socialise or find information/entertaining content but also to post their own content, with a significant portion doing so with the intention of making money. This highlights how important monetisation features, from advertising to tipping options, have become for platforms to attract users.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on media habits.

  • Trends in purchasing of media content.

  • Trends in media activities and use of devices.

  • The types of original media content people are posting online.

  • Attitudes towards posting original media content online.

COVID-19: Market context

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January 2020, with a small number of cases in February. Rapidly rising case numbers led to the first national lockdown, starting on 23 March. It wasn't until 15 June that non-essential stores were allowed to reopen, followed by pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers on 4 July, and many beauty businesses on 13 July.

By September, it had become clear that the UK was at the start of a second wave, and social distancing measures were intensified. Continued increases in infection numbers led to Wales implementing a two-week national lockdown from 19 October, England announcing a month-long lockdown from 5 November and Scotland introducing a new five-level system of coronavirus restrictions.

Despite these restrictions, however, case numbers continued to increase. All four UK nations tightened restrictions further in January 2021, effectively leading to a full UK-wide lockdown.

On 22 February, Boris Johnson announced the roadmap to an easing of restrictions in England, starting with the reopening of schools on 8 March, followed by easing of restrictions on outdoor gatherings on 29 March and with a hoped end to all restrictions by 21 June. The Welsh and Scottish governments also gave more details on their plans to ease restrictions, with both nations taking a slightly more cautious approach to the one planned for England.

The UK’s vaccination programme started on 8 December 2020, and with the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines licensed for use in the UK, the government aims to offer a first dose of the vaccine to 32 million people by mid-April.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its March 2021 Fiscal Sustainability Report. After the fall of 9.9% over the course of 2020, the scenario suggests that UK GDP will grow by 4% in 2021 and 7.3% in 2022.

GDP isn’t expected to return to pre-COVID levels until Q2 2022, although this is six months earlier than the OBR forecast in November 2020, mainly because of the faster-than-expected rollout of vaccines.

Unemployment is expected to peak at 6.5% in Q4 2021. As with GDP, this is more positive than the OBR’s November forecast, but the OBR does raise the prospect of long-term scarring on employment, especially in the more exposed retail and hospitality sectors.

Products covered in this Report

This Report examines people’s media habits in terms of purchasing and activity over the last three months. The primary media areas of focus are video, audio and print media.

Video – includes TV shows and films delivered through DVDs, Blu-ray discs, pay-TV subscriptions like Virgin Media or Sky, and streamed video services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. It also includes short-form online videos on platforms such as YouTube and Facebook.

Video Games – includes PC, console and mobile games.

Music and audio – refers to CDs, digital downloads and streaming services such as Spotify or Apple Music.

Print media – refers to newspaper, magazine and book titles in either a digital or physical format.

Physical print media – ie newspapers, magazines and books, as opposed to websites and e-books, are referred to as ‘physical print media’ when a distinction between physical and digital is drawn.

The special focus topic of this Report is media content people create and post online.

Back to top