Streaming ended 2020 on an even higher note thanks to smart TVs

In its State of Streaming report for the fourth quarter, data analytics company Convina reported a 44% increase in time spent streaming as compared to 2019.

The company said the boom was spurred by the growing popularity of smart TVs.

According to the report, big screens captured more than 75% of all viewing time in fourth quarter as smart TVs reached a 156% year over year increase in viewing hours and a nearly doubled global share of viewing time. Connected TVs saw a smaller but still robust growth, up 38% year over year, but also experienced a small decrease in global share, dropping from 51% to 49.1%.

Roku is reported to hold 31% share of all TV viewing followed by Amazon Fire TV at 19% and Samsung TV at 10%.

As for engagement, big screen audiences tend to watch for longer periods of time, averaging 28.7 minutes each time they pressed play. Chromecast is reported to have the longest watch time of 35.5 minutes per play, followed by Roku at 33.3 minutes per play.

Meanwhile, viewing hours on mobile phones saw a 19% year over year increase and a 10% global share of viewing time, a 2% decrease from the fourth quarter of 2019. Moreover, mobile phones saw the lowest engagement tallying just 8.6 minutes per play, further underscoring a growing trend for streaming on the big screen.

RELATED: Smart TVs grow share of streaming viewership: Conviva

Social platforms, often used on mobile devices, have since responded to the competition by publishing more long-form and series-based content for social media in an effort to retain online viewership. Sports, entertainment, and branded accounts on Facebook and YouTube posted longer videos, while media accounts posted shorter videos, a trend likely attributed to the recent tumultuous news cycle covering the election and COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether in response to this trend towards longer content, or simply due to COVID-19 lockdown measures, social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube saw their audiences grow. Of those platforms, YouTube was the only platform to see an overall increase across all four major categories of entertainment, media, sports and brands. 

Despite experiencing audience growth, social platforms saw their engagement rates go down, a trend the report attributed to general fatigue from recent intense news cycles and unprecedented political ad spending.

Nonetheless, for advertisers who experienced a rocky year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ad spending saw an uptick in the fourth quarter with a 34% increase in ad attempts and a 31% increase in ad impressions. Quality issues are still concerning with 40% of ads not delivering as expected, but audiences did enjoy less buffering, higher picture quality, and less time waiting for ads to load.

The million-dollar question now is whether these trends will be able to keep the momentum going. Streaming is definitely not going anywhere, and 2020 was without a doubt a pivotal moment for its rapid ascent in popularity. But as COVID-19 restrictions ease and people emerge from various lockdown measures, how audiences will continue to stream has yet to be seen.