TV Viewing Habits in 2021
What remains of 2020, this “exceptional” year during which the medium of Television proved essential in supporting French people throughout the health crisis and beyond?
A first observation stands out: in a growing and diversified video offer, viewers are increasingly involved in their choices and consumption. And television remains the preferred medium for French people to watch content.
Isabelle Maurice, Director of Studies, Monitoring and Forecasting at Médiamétrie: “In 2021, French people spent an average of 3 hours 41 minutes a day watching TV programmes, which is 1 minute more than in 2019. In short, we’re getting back to a certain “normality”.
“TV screen time has meanwhile increased by 10% compared to 2019, adds Laurence Deléchapt, Director of TV & Cross Media at Médiamétrie, a sign that the television set is also a gateway to complementary uses. In this context, however, TV programmes account for 81% of time spent in front of the TV screen!
TV viewing time is stable compared to 2019, after an exceptionally high 2020.
This stability conceals two realities. In 2021, there were more TV viewers every day: 44.5 million on average. On the other hand, they stayed in front of their TV screens for a shorter time.
While the viewing time of 15-24 year olds remains stable, the viewing time of the youngest age group (4-14 years old) is down 18 minutes per day (compared to 2019). People in the upper SPC, who returned to the small screen in 2020, continued to reconnect with the medium in 2021: their daily viewing time recorded a growth of 10% compared to 2019 at 2 hours 56 minutes.
In terms of programmes, news consolidated its leading position and showed an increase of 18% compared to 2019 in time spent. The appointments made by French people with the TV News in 2020 continued in 2021, since an average of 20.7 million of them watched the evening news every day in 2021, compared to 17.5 million in 2019. Continuous news channels also benefited from the habits adopted in 2020 for obvious news needs during the health crisis with its successive waves. Every day in 2021, these TV news channels attracted 16.6 million viewers in 2021, compared to 12.4 million in 2019.
TV : A unique medium
A medium that brings people together: a speech by the French President in the midst of a health crisis? “Only television can bring together nearly 1 in 2 French people to watch a speech” points out Laurence Deléchapt. 31.4 million viewers actually watch Emmanuel Macron’s address to the nation on 31 March 2021 (Extension of the curfew to all departments + modification of the school holiday calendar).
A medium that adapts: to decipher the candidates' programmes, television channels adjust their programming in the run up to elections. TV news channels also contribute to public enlightenment and invest in a niche centered around debates. 9.7 million French people saw at least some of the Mélenchon-Zemmour debate which aired on BFM TV on 23 September.
A responsive medium, especially when it comes to paying tribute to deceased celebrities. 33.5 million French people watched a film or programme dedicated to Jean-Paul Belmondo in the days following his death.
Finally, an inspired medium, which gains inspiration from social issues, such as teenage prostitution (Fugueuse on TF1) or even the prison world (Le bruit des trousseaux on France 2), to offer fiction, often followed by debates that help viewers understand the subject.
A sporting summer, a record summer
After being deprived of sport in 2020, viewers reconnected with the genre in 2021. While the offer of sports programmes has made considerable progress (+34% compared to 2019), the time spent watching these programmes has shot up (+65% compared to 2019).
Euro 2020 (broadcast in 2021), the Tokyo Olympic Games and the Tour de France all broke their viewership records. In particular, by taking into account viewers watching outside of their homes. With 54.2 million viewers in total, Euro 2020 broke both the record for a European Football Championship and the away-from-home audience record, with 2.6 million viewers for the final between Italy and England. This record was carried by 15-24 year olds, since nearly half (46%) of them watched it outside their home.
So, thanks to sport, the summer of 2021 saw record TV viewing times, with a daily average of 3 hours 25 minutes in July-August.
Access and Prime made their mark in 2021
This year, even more than in previous years, television viewing time was driven by Access (6:30 pm to 9 pm) and Prime (9 pm to 11 pm). “As an essential crossroads for audiences, these two time slots attract nearly half (46% compared to 44% in 2019) of the medium's daily audience ”, commented Isabelle Maurice. From year to year, the peak audience is confirmed in the evening, with 24.1 million viewers at 9:29 pm in 2021. This represents 1.1 million more people than in 2019 (at 9:29 pm).
Some performances… The 8 episodes of the Franco-Belgian series HPI (Haut potentiel intellectuel) brought together an average of 11.9 million viewers. Or 9 million viewers watching live, as well as 2.9 million fans who watched the replay of the series. In terms of films, Le sens de la fête, with Jean-Pierre Bacri, who died on 18 January, stood out (best score for a film in 2021) by attracting an average of 7.5 million viewers on 24 January 2021.
“Beyond this crossroads of audiences, Access and Prime also constitute a crossroads of uses of TV screens”, said Isabelle Maurice.
Television sets as a gateway to complementary uses
“Video games, films and personal photos, VoD/SVoD, DVD, programme guides, video platforms, Smart TV applications… Every day, French people spend 50 minutes more on their TV screens for complementary uses, of which 39% on Access and Prime, which is 1 point more than in 2019”, said Laurence Deléchapt .
On average each day, 8.7 million French people aged 15 and over watched an SVoD programme. Of the programmes consumed, 72% are viewed on TV screens. That represents an increase of 3 points compared to 2020. And this is even truer for series phenomena such as Lupin (77% of viewing on TV screens) or Squid Game (78%).
Boosted by the 2020 lockdowns, video games are attracting more and more recurring players: the discipline has 55% "regular" players (every day or almost or several times a day). And here again, 61% of gamers aged 15 to 24 use TV screens to play their games.
Finally, connected TVs also allow for many complementary uses, such as watching other video content (39% of uses by regular users* performed from a connected TV), such as watching other video content, listening to the radio or podcasts and simply surfing the internet.
These complementary uses, which are often made possible by the Internet, take up a growing share of the time spent in front of TV screens. At the same time, television also takes over Internet screens a little more each year. In fact, every day, 3.7 million people watch a TV programme on digital screens (computer, mobile phone, tablet). And half of them are under 25.
* every day or almost