In the final week of 2021, viewers in the U.S. broke a record: they watched a total of 183 billion minutes of OTT content, according to Nielsen. This surpassed both the 160 billion watched during the initial COVID lockdown of March 2020 and the 178 billion minutes viewed during the week of Thanksgiving 2021. Viewership is clearly continuing to grow across OTT platforms, but drilling down what exactly people are watching provides further insights into what video providers should prioritize in 2022 and beyond.
Looking at the types of content, interesting trends emerge. For example, original content like Netflix’s Lucifer is more popular among older generations of viewers, while younger audiences are engaging more with acquired shows and movies, such as newly-Netflix-owned Seinfeld.
The top genres viewers enjoyed in 2021 were mystery, drama, reality and children’s programming, as seen by the list of the most popular shows of the year: Lucifer, Squid Game, The Great British Breaking Show, Criminal Minds, Cocomelon, and more.
Netflix continues to dominate the original programming game, with 12 of the 15 most popular shows. Yet in 2021, Hulu, Apple TV+, and Disney+ also had major original hits, and Disney+ is leading viewership of films , with 11 of the top 15.
2021 also revealed the importance of acquired content, though. Criminal Minds stood out as one of Netflix’s most popular shows, while its acquisition of Seinfeld in 2021 was particularly impactful, especially when trying to gain the loyalty of young viewers. A large portion of Seinfeld viewers weren’t old enough to watch the show when it originally aired—and many weren’t even born yet. In fact, 41% of Seinfeld viewers are 34 years old or younger, and a whopping 80% are under the age of 50. Aquiring classic content can be just as, if not more, essential to attracting and engaging new audiences than a hit original show.
There’s a lot more data in Nielsen’s report, but perhaps the most crucial takeaway is this: Americans streamed almost 15 million years’ worth of content in 2021. With this increasing level of viewership, content is not the only factor OTTs need to prioritize. As more people stream, and stream more often, the number of problems that arise when they do are growing as well. 2021 saw increasing rates of startup delays and re-buffering, not to mention high levels of ad failure rates.
The popularity of certain shows and movies is always changing, and investing solely in fresh originals or time-tested classics will never guarantee viewer loyalty in the long run. Its important for OTTs to invest in perfecting the viewing experience, to ensure that your technology guarantees viewers don’t encounter frustrating interruptions or repetitive ads, whether they’re watching their favorite comfort sitcom or binging the new viral sci-fi thriller.
At Penthera, our products help OTTs do exactly that. Check out our offerings and learn how you can reduce startup times to less than one second, eliminate re-buffering, offer download capabilities, and more.