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Report: Global pay-TV market rebounds

March 14, 2022

The global theatrical and home entertainment market rebounded in 2021, reaching $99.7 billion (€90.9bn) in consumer spending and surpassing 2019’s value, according to a report from the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

When the pay-TV market is included, the combined figure for consumer spending reached $328.2 billion, matching 2019’s record high. The pay-TV market includes monthly subscription fees for cable and other pay TV services, as well as payments for on-demand content. In the US, the combined theatrical and home/mobile entertainment market was $36.8 billion in 2021, a 14 per cent increase compared to 2020, but notably overtaking the 2019 figure of $36.1 billion.

While both the international and US/Canada theatrical markets grew substantially compared to 2020, streaming continued to drive the growth of the overall industry. Subscriptions to streaming services reached 1.3 billion globally, marking a 14 per cent increase over 2020.

The MPA’s 2021 Theatrical and Home Entertainment Market Environment (THEME) Report provides a comprehensive analysis and survey of the theatrical and home/mobile entertainment market. This annual report includes in-depth data into how the film, television, and streaming industry performed during the year, as well as audience demographic information.

“As the Motion Picture Association marks its 100th anniversary this year, our latest THEME Report underscores how resilient and dynamic our industry is, and I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of our business,” said Charles Rivkin, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association. “We are just getting started in writing the next chapter of our industry as streaming continues to boom, theaters are rebounding, and the overall global market for our entertainment product recovers and breaks records. Our members are the most innovative companies on earth. Their capacity to bring people together through the timeless magic of extraordinary stories will continue to captivate billions of viewers over the next 100 years.”

In 2021, the global home/mobile entertainment market reached $78.5 billion, representing a 14 per cent increase compared to 2020 and a 41 per cent increase compared to 2019. In the US, it increased to $32.3 billion last year. This growth was driven by the digital market which increased 11 per cent in the US and 24 per cent internationally.

Another notable data point is that there was a significant return to production in 2021 due largely to the early and effective implementation of the industry’s strict health and safety protocols. Some 943 films entered production during 2021, an increase of 111 per cent compared to 2020.

Other THEME Report home/mobile entertainment findings include:

  • The number of subscriptions to streaming services around the world increased to 1.3 billion (up from 1.2 billion in 2020) and to 353.2 million in the US, both representing a 14 per cent increase from 2020.
  • 1,826 original series were released in 2021, including 559 scripted original series. This represented an increase of 15 per cent in original series from 2020, driven in part by the increase of series productions for online services. In 2021, online services produced a total of 693 series.
  • Online services also produced 179 original films released exclusively to their platforms in 2021, comparable to 2020 but representing an almost 60 per cent increase from 2019.
  • Approximately 80 per cent of US adults watch movies and shows/series through traditional television services, including pay TV and online streaming services.
  • Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, 53 per cent of US adults reported that their viewing of movies or shows/series on a streaming service increased, while 42 per cent reported that their viewing via pay-TV increased.
  • More than 85 per cent of children and more than 55 per cent of adults watch movies and/or television shows on mobile devices.
  • The Hispanic/Latino ethnicity category is overrepresented relative to their share of the US population in terms of daily viewers of several viewing methods.

On the theatrical side, the global box office, which includes all films released in each country, was $21.3 billion in 2021, up 81 per cent from 2020 but remained below pre-pandemic levels. The international box office, outside the US and Canada, accounted for 79 per cent of the global market. Due to Covid-19 impacts on the theatrical market, including varying theater closures and reopenings, comparing the box offices of different countries remains challenging. Under those parameters, the top three box office markets outside the US and Canada were China ($7.3 billion, including online ticketing fees), Japan ($1.5 billion), and the UK ($0.8 billion).

The US/Canada box office was $4.5 billion in 2021, up 105 per cent since 2020. Although the market was still lower than pre-pandemic levels, the number of tickets sold (470 million) was up 100 per cent compared to 2020. Other important domestic theatrical findings include:

  • Just under half of the population, or 168 million people, went to the cinema at least once in 2021.
  • Per capita attendance was highest among the 12-17 (2.5 tickets sold per person) age group and among the Hispanic/Latino (1.7) ethnicity category.
  • The gender composition of 2021 audiences skewed slightly toward men relative to the population share.


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