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Brief Published: 20 Aug 2020

3 Key TV Content Trends to Watch

US comedian Sarah Cooper

Lockdown has led to a surge in TV viewing, with UK adults spending 40% of their time in front of the screen (Ofcom, 2020), and 73% of Americans watching TV or movies daily to cope with pandemic anxiety (Pew, 2020). We highlight three TV genres that have captured consumer imaginations during this period, and will continue to grow in popularity post-Covid.

  • Social Media Satire: Lockdown has made stars of social media performers like British comedian Michael Spicer (whose The Room Next Door skits made the move from Twitter to The Late Late Show With James Corden) and US comedian Sarah Cooper (whose Donald Trump lip-sync TikTok videos landed her a Netflix show). Both performers are part of a new breed of online satirists capitalising on an increase in news consumption on social platforms. Forty-nine per cent of US consumers and 39% in the UK are reading more news stories on social media as a result of the outbreak (GlobalWebIndex, 2020).
  • Gen Z's Horror Obsession: 2019 research revealed that among American 18- to 24-year-olds, the top 15 ranked "must-have" TV shows were dominated by horror (seven programmes) and animated comedies (six). Netflix series Stranger Things and American Horror Story were the most popular (Altman Solon, 2019).
  • Since lockdown, this preference has manifested in a wave of TikTok creators releasing short horror clips as part of a 'Haunted TikTok' trend. "The pandemic is already like the ghost that's haunting us," Jessica Maddox, an assistant professor at Alabama University, told US tech blog Mashable. "Like all good horror, the 'Haunted TikTok' trend provides us with a sense of control over something scary that we don't have control over in our real lives."
  • Resilience of Animation: Animation viewership increased by 22% during lockdown (Reelgood, 2020), and the genre has remained resilient amidst production challenges that shut down much live-action TV production. Live-action shows such as The Blacklist turned to animation as the pandemic began as a way of completing the unfinished season finale. The Blacklist's co-showrunner Gloria Calderón Kellett told the Wall Street Journal that animation may play a larger role in live-action TV in the future: "I'd definitely watch an animated Better Call Saul or an animated Ozark."

For more on future media habits, see our Post-Covid Entertainment Trends report.