What are the latest US media trends?

In this edition of Attest Investigates I tackle a topic at the crux of advertising and marketing strategies the world over – understanding how people consume content, and how that’s changing. 

Say a big hello to Attest Investigates! A series where I use the Attest platform to test popular hypotheses and answer your burning questions.

As a trained scientist, I am obsessed with experimentation, empiricism and using data to make decisions. We’ll delve into all things consumer research, using a scientific analysis style to lift the lid on the most important unknowns for brands, as requested by you!

Introduction and hypothesis

In this edition of Attest Investigates I tackle a topic at the crux of advertising and marketing strategies the world over – understanding how people consume content, and how that’s changing. 

Knowing where and how your target audience watches, reads, plays and listens to content is crucial to having a successful brand building and customer acquisition strategy. 

This is why we’ve created the US Media Consumption Report for 2021, as an in-depth analysis of consumers’ media habits and preferences. Dig into the data and reach the right customers in the right places by reading our full report.

Going into this research, my Attest Investigates hypothesis is this: Streaming will be more popular than live TV in mid/late-2021, and that will continue into the future.


For this research we surveyed a nationally representative audience of 2,000 Americans in August 2021. 

Using the Attest dashboard you can see the full results, filter by demographic and and group answers together to cut the data per response. Delve into the results over on the Attest dashboard.  


Streaming has finally overtaken live TV

It’s been building for years, and the subject of endless speculation. Heavyweights like Netflix, Amazon Prime and, most notably, newcomer Disney+ have presented consumers with such a variety and volume of movies and shows, that it was inevitable the streamers would overtake live TV. All that content being available on-demand, (mostly) ad-free and on consumers’ own terms is a tantalising prospect.

Mid-2021 is when it finally happened!

The proportion of Americans who stream movies and TV shows daily is now 83%, while 81% watch live TV daily. There’s no doubt that 81% for live TV is still a massive figure, and live TV advertising must still be a factor in your advertising plans, but remember the broader picture – live TV is on the relative decline. 

That becomes clear when we look back at previous data. In 2019 an enormous 94% said they watched live TV daily – that’s a 13% drop in just two years. Tiny in percentage terms, but huge when it comes to the absolute scale and buying power that these viewers (consumers) represent. 

Is binge watching a thing of the past?

While 2020 was anomalous in every sphere of society, we’ve uncovered another truly surprising piece of insight: TV bingeing in 2021 is not only lower than 2020, it’s also below pre-pandemic levels.

So that we can track consumer trends and give brands the latest insight into people’s behaviours and attitudes, we run media consumption reports every year. And because of that, we can handily compare results from different years. 

The data shows us that the number of people watching 5 hours+ of TV a day is half of what it was in 2020. No huge surprise there – we had little else to do for much of the year. But compared to 2019, it’s way down. 

In 2019 31% of Americans said they consumed more than 5 hours of live TV a day; in 2021 it’s just 18%. 

And it’s much the same picture for streaming. In 2019, 19% said they streamed for at least 5 hours a day; 2021’s figure is 13%. Behaviours are constantly in flux, and it’s important to understand precisely where, how and why.

Future scope

Because media planning is such an integral part of brands’ marketing and advertising strategies, we’ll continue running our Media Consumption Reports every year, so hold tight for 2022 (or contact us, to learn how to gain insights in more detail about your biggest priorities or concerns, and certainly much faster).

Targeting customers in the UK?

Get the latest data on Brits’ media habits in our video, and get the full lowdown in the UK Media Consumption Report for 2021.


Our report has uncovered seismic shifts in the ways people consume content, such as streaming finally overtaking live TV. 

The emergence in recent years of streaming, and the massive figures floating around the biggest players, has been a looming death knell for live TV for years. It may yet be a tad too soon to toll that bell – TV’s popularity is still enormous, and its standing in the domestic setup is undeniable, so TV certainly isn’t facing death – but there’s no doubt that that the landscape is changing and streaming has now taken over.

For brands, understanding these shifting trends, how they track over time and figuring out the generational differences is key to getting the right content in front of the right people at the right time. 

Get the latest media insights

Our full Media Consumption Report for 2021 has all the analysis you need to inform you brand’s media strategy

Get the full report

Jeremy King


Jeremy founded Attest in mid-2015, following 9 years leading global teams across industries at McKinsey & Company. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School, originally trained as a scientist with a focus on genetics, ecology and animal behaviour, and also helps to improve state primary schools with his charity work.

See all articles by Jeremy