Global streaming viewing time for the fourth quarter of 2021 was up 7%, driven mostly by double-digit growth in Africa, Oceania, and South America. In more established streaming markets, Europe was up 20%, Asia just 5%, and North America, one of the most mature streaming markets, saw just a 1% increase in viewing time, Conviva’s “State of 2021 Streaming” report revealed.
While the massive streaming gains as a product of the pandemic were retained, the growth slowed, especially in more saturated markets like North America. This region commonly leads global streaming trends, so noting that growth was up only 2% last quarter and 1% this quarter, it is likely the rest of the world will also start to see significant deceleration.
Big screens continued to dominate viewership globally, as they commanded over 50% of share in every region except Asia. Yet even Asia was a bright spot for big screens. Their share grew rapidly, up from 14% share in Q3 to 27% in Q4 2021 — tying with regionally more consistent desktops. Mobile still accounted for the highest streaming consumption in Asia at 40%, and tablets made a small dent with 5%.
Meanwhile, in a stunning turn, connected TVs’ viewing time fell for the first time ever, down 2%; desktops were also down significantly by 12%; and gaming consoles continued the decline that was first reported in the middle of last year, down 16%. “In an industry that has been used to up and to the right growth across all categories, we’ve reached a saturation point as device preferences shift,” the report noted.
Like most quarters, Q4 had some improvements and declines when it came to quality. Buffering, for example, was down across all big screen devices. On the other hand, video start time was up to over five seconds, while ad start time also rose substantially to 2.6 seconds as technical issues left viewers waiting for both content and ads in the fourth quarter of last year.
“Streaming was one of many industries that saw a boon during the pandemic, with people spending more time at home but nevertheless expecting premium content to play flawlessly, especially on their big screens. While the boon has come to an end, the industry will enjoy the gains that have been maintained,” the report concluded.