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Pandemic Pushes Global Streaming Subscriptions Past 1 Billion, MPA Reports

Annual THEME report surveys COVID-19’s boost to home entertainment and record damage to the box office

The Motion Picture Association’s annual THEME report released on Thursday revealed that global subscriptions for online video services passed one billion for the first time ever.

The report also stated that with thousands of movie theaters forced to close worldwide, the 2020 box office collapsed 73% year-over-year to $12 billion, with the U.S. box office only totaling $2.2 billion. While the box office in some major markets like China — which grossed $3 billion last year — has found a way to rapidly recover, it is expected that it will take at least the duration of 2021 for the domestic box office to return to normal levels, provided that another COVID-19 outbreak does not cause widespread closures again.

The box office crash led to a dip in overall revenue for the entertainment industry, but the surge in streaming and other home platforms mitigated the damage. The MPA reports that combined revenue from theatrical, home and mobile entertainment markets for 2020 dropped 18% to $80.8 billion. Of that amount, $68.8 billion, or 85%, came from home and mobile markets. In 2019, home and mobile revenue reached $58.8 billion and comprised 65% of the $90 billion earned last year.

“Despite the challenges to the global economy brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the film television, and streaming industry has once again risen to the occasion,” said Charles Rivkin, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association. “Streaming experienced another huge boom, with new entrants into the market and more than one billion subscriptions worldwide for the first time ever. We kept audiences connected and entertained wherever they were and whenever they desired. Theatrical and home entertainment remain two essential parts of this dynamic and iconic industry, and I am confident that movie theaters will experience a great comeback in the months ahead.”

The THEME Report is the MPA’s annual checkup on the state of the film industry and audience consumption of movies on all formats, recently expanding to include streaming and mobile viewership as those platforms have become increasingly popular. The MPA found in a survey that 55% of U.S. adults said that their viewing of movies and shows through streaming services increased during the pandemic, along with 46% saying their viewing through pay-TV increased as well.

More than 85% of children and 55% of adults watch movies and shows on mobile devices, with adult mobile viewing skewing towards those aged 18-39 and Latino and Black adults.