Fill Me In
Thanks to COVID-19, 2020 has become a year in which many have had to find ways to internalise their entertainment. For nearly a year, the global pandemic has forced entire countries to place lockdowns, and halt basic operations for the safety of their people.
While the retention of civilians in their own homes has largely kept the virus from creating an even larger massacre, recent studies have highlighted the existence of yet another pandemic: the subscription to internet-based streaming content.
Over the last decade, the rapidly expanding pool of subscription video on demand (SVoD) services has led to a significant shift in the media consumption habits of people around the world. But even this shift during the advent of such services pales in comparison to the drastic rise in utility this year.
YouTube Singapore’s booming presence
A recent news release by YouTube regarding the top trending videos onsite from Singapore has highlighted the meteoric growth in viewership for the popular streaming platform. In the 15 years since YouTube’s launch, the user-driven streaming site has seen itself go from being one in a few niche services to being a market leader with dominance over the industry. YouTube weathered the rise and fall of similar competitors, and eventually even being bought over by Google.
Nevertheless, despite its high market saturation and already present cultural prominence, the necessitated homestay of people due to the pandemic saw a further increase in users of the platform, with both new content creators and audience seeking replacement sources of entertainment as well as income.
The surge of YouTube viewers has contributed to a whopping more than 30 per cent increase in watch time on the site alone. Appropriately, the most-watched video is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s address to the nation regarding the implementation of the ‘circuit breaker’ and the ensuing “significantly stricter measures” as part of the nation’s increased vigilance in restricting the spread of the virus.
Released on 3 April amid the escalation of COVID-19 among Singaporeans, the address was live-streamed on ChannelNewsAsia’s YouTube channel and has since accumulated 1.7 million views over the last eight months. Unsurprisingly, this period of financial and social uncertainty has led to an increase in viewers seeking reliable information from national leaders. This has also contributed to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 12 March address listing as the eighth most-watched video on YouTube for Singapore, with more than a million views as of today.
In fact, the societal relevance of these videos also nudged Youtube toward releasing a statement. The platform attributed the popularity of the two videos to viewers who “looked to our leaders for information and assurance” in a time of uncertainty.
What else are Singaporeans watching on Youtube?
In addition to seeking information pertaining to the ongoing crisis, viewers also sought new home-based solutions to replace their previous outdoor activities. Fitness videos have been exceptionally popular due to the closure of gyms, swimming pools, and other fitness activity-related locations. Fitness influencers Chloe Ting and Pamela Reif’s video on a no-equipment arm workout routine stands at being the sixth most watched video in Singapore.
Singaporeans’ love for food and the nation’s variety of multicultural cuisines also led to a rise of viewers for cooking videos, with many such content creators noting the increase in subscribers and viewers for their content.
In line with other efforts to assist Singaporeans in assimilating with both the current and post-pandemic economy, more government-initiated resources have been made available for aspiring content creators. This has most visibly manifested in Bloomr.SG MCN, a partnership between Mediacorp and YouTube seeking to offer training to content creators to assist in the production and monetisation of their videos.
“It’s impressive how creators have continued to stretch their imaginations and developed an amazing breadth of content to entertain and keep the four million Singaporeans on YouTube informed, in spite of a difficult year,” said Ben King, country director of Google Singapore.
Singaporeans are also streaming… a lot
While YouTube’s dominance as a source of entertainment via the internet remains unmatched, it is not the only one to see a significant rise in viewers. SVoD service Netflix especially has increased in popularity with Singaporeans, with a marketing share of 46 per cent of paid streaming service subscribers. This newly increased market share number is the result of a 40 per cent rise in audience since February 2020.
Comparatively, Netflix’s next closest competitor, Amazon Prime, only possesses a 10 per cent market share. Local SVoD services such as StarHub, Singtel, and MeWatch only amounted to a combined 18 per cent of the market share, although each service has seen a 30-40 per cent rise in viewership.
HBO GO, the streaming counterpart to the popular cable movie channel, saw the greatest increase in viewership with a 50 per cent rise.
The pandemic may have also inadvertently led to the increased savviness of older citizens regarding the utility of such streaming services. While the 25-34-year-old age bracket of audience retains the majority position of viewers at 33.4 per cent, the above 45 years demographic has also seen a significant increase to representing more than 20 per cent of streaming audience in Singapore.
The stay-home nature of the pandemic has also allowed for a shift in viewing culture, with many reverting to televisions as their preferred platform over mobile devices and computers. Near half of streamers have chosen Smart TVs with streaming applications as their preferred screen, with 48.5 per cent of viewers.
While the popularity of streaming platforms are at an all-time high, the ongoing and remaining uncertain nature of the pandemic almost certainly guarantees the continuing rise in utility for YouTube, Netflix, and their brethren.