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Research: Americans moving away from TV binging

September 21, 2021

Attest, a consumer research platform, has released its third annual US Media Consumption Report and the findings point to more seismic shifts in what American eyes and ears are tuning into in 2021.

For brands trying to navigate the second coming of the ‘Roaring 20s’, a digital ad spend boom, and a general fatigue for bad news, the report points to a significant decrease in viewers’ desire to sit in front of a TV screen for prolonged periods of time.

The report delves into Americans’ habits across television, audio, news and social media, and its main findings are:

Social is America’s favourite media to engage with: 

  • 6 per cent of Americans spend some portion of their day on social media, making it the country’s most popular medium. This is followed by streaming TV services (82.8 per cent) and music streaming (81.1 per cent).

Decrease in binging of TV: 

  • As the Great Reopening has gained pace this year, binge-watching of both live TV and streaming content has seen marked declines. While Netflix still dominates streaming, the percentage of people engaging in five-hour+ bingeing sessions on streaming platforms is down from 25.9 per cent in 2020 to just 12.4 per cent in 2021.
    • More Americans also stopped watching live TV for more than six hours (8.7 per cent) compared to last year (18.8 per cent). Meanwhile, nearly one in five consumers (19 per cent) say they now watch no live TV in 2021, versus 14 per cent in 2020.

Streaming TV overtakes live:

  • For the first time since this report was launched in 2019, the proportion of Americans who watch streaming TV content (82.8 per cent) has surpassed those who watch live TV (81 per cent) on a daily basis.

Turning off the news & escaping reality: 

  • The research highlights a collapse in consumers watching TV news, potentially caused by pandemic fatigue and the conclusion of the Presidential election, with just under a third of Americans (31.8 per cent) regularly tuning into news content in 2021, compared to 46.3 per cent in 2020.
  • This escape from reality is borne out by Americans saying comedy (51.1 per cent), drama (49.8 per cent) and crime (42.3 per cent) programmes are their favorite types of TV shows.

Breakdown of Americans’ Media Habits

Social media 

Americans’ favourite social media platform is YouTube, with 87 per cent using the platform at least once during the month, followed by Facebook (81.9 per cent). However, consumers are more likely to use Facebook on a daily basis (54.1 per cent) compared to YouTube (45.3 per cent). Meanwhile, TikTok saw substantial growth from 2020’s report with just under half of Americans using the platform at least once over a month (48.3 per cent). The vast majority of consumers also appear to have missed the Clubhouse craze with 82.9 per cent saying they never use the platform.

Unsurprisingly, Gen Z (aged 18-25) used social media on a daily basis the most out of all those polled (at 96 per cent), strikingly, however, the boomer generation (aged 55-66) came next (at 87 per cent).


In tandem with a decline in bingeing on TV content, Americans are listening to more radio this year, with just 10.9 per cent saying they never listen to the radio (compared to 20 per cent in 2020). Additionally, for the first time since this report was launched, more than half of consumers say they listen to podcasts (55.9 per cent), compared to 48.7 per cent in 2020.


Netflix dominates in the streaming wars, with nearly one in seven Americans having a subscription (69.4 per cent). This is followed by Amazon Prime which is used by over half (52 per cent) and Disney Plus (36.9 per cent) as the most popular streaming services amongst consumers.

News media (print and digital)

Over two-thirds (67.2 per cent) of consumers say they do not have any paid-for content subscriptions for news media. Of the minority who do subscribe, somewhat surprisingly in 2021, digital subscriptions (19.5 per cent) are only just ahead of print (18 per cent).

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