Beware, Netflix: Pandemic streaming is losing steam

March 30, 2021, 7:00 PM UTC

The pandemic set off a digital explosion. But as the world returns to in-person normalcy, will that digital transformation last?

Streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ are among the biggest winners of this digital takeover, benefiting from a user base cooped up inside their homes. To see if that digital boom is holding strong, Fortune teamed up with SurveyMonkey to poll 2,000 adults in the U.S. between March 11 and 15.* We compared the results to public opinion polling we conducted before the pandemic (Oct. 2019 and Nov. 2019) and in the midst of it (May 2020 and Sept. 2020).

Our finding? The streaming boom is indeed losing steam. In May 2020, the early months of the pandemic, Fortune Analytics found 45% of U.S. adults were watching streaming every day. That was up from 29% in October 2019. But our latest poll finds that figure has reverted back to 29% as of March 2021.

While Americans are spending fewer days streaming—hey, maybe they’re finally back to having weekend plans—the amount of time they’re streaming is still well above pre-COVID levels. For every person who says they’re spending less time (10%) streaming during the pandemic, there are four (43%) who say they’re spending more.

Simply put, streaming has lost some of its pandemic gains, but it is still bigger than it was before the crisis. 

So some of the gains the digital world made during the pandemic could recede as the world reopens. But don’t expect all digital trends to lose steam. Sure, the amount of time we spend on social media or streaming services can easily fluctuate as our day-to-day changes (or if we go back to a Monday-Friday commute). However, once we incorporate a digital habit into our life, such as online shopping for household toiletries, it’s hard to reverse—especially if it adds convenience to our routine.

*Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted among a national sample of 2,000 adults in the U.S. between March 11 and 15. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.

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