The onset of the coronavirus pandemic caused digital media consumption to skyrocket across a multitude of platforms. From recording TikTok videos, to playing interactive games, the average time spent on phones skyrocketed in the US—and this trend will likely continue through 2021 and beyond.

Which time spent categories were the big winners in 2020?

Connected TV

The stand-out prize for time spent with media in 2020 goes to the digital big screen. In 2020, Insider Intelligence’s “other connected device” category saw a 33.8% increase in time spent. This category encompasses smart TVs, OTT devices like Roku and Amazon Fire TV, gaming consoles, and the like. 

Subscription OTT

Last year was a major pivot point for subscription OTT services, as new entrants like Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ added heft to an already-robust marketplace. Time spent among US adults on subscription OTT services increased by 33.9% to 1:12 minutes per day. Among subscription OTT users, average time spent skyrocketed to 1:50 per day.  

Smartphone

Even as users became less physically mobile last year, they gravitated to smartphones more than ever. US consumers’ average time spent on their phones reached 3:13 per day last year. Users tend to lean on their phones during idle time, and the smartphone also remains the device of choice during media multitasking, enabling its time spent figures to rise in tandem with other winners.

US time spent with digital media outlook for 2021

According to Insider Intelligence projections, while overall time spent with media per day will decline slightly from 13:38 in 2020 to 13:27 in 2021, time spent with digital video, smartphones, CTV, subscription OTT, and digital audio will maintain their gains from 2020 and continue claiming even more time going forward.

Comparatively, traditional TV, nearly every social network, tablets, and desktops/laptops will give back some of their 2020 gains. After declines in the number of TV viewers accelerated from 2018 (-2.3%) to 2019 (-3.9%) to 2020 (-4.7%), we forecast another 2.4% drop this year, and fewer than 200 million adults will be regular TV watchers in 2021 (199.2 million).