What is the Future of Live Entertainment?

September 11, 2020

With so much of the physical world shut down, we’re now spending more time and finding more value in digital spaces. Time spent streaming is up around 60 percent since the crisis started, and gaming is up about 50 percent. But this isn’t to say that digital will take the place of the physical. We can glean insight into what will come back through the types of real life experiences audiences are trying to approximate from their living rooms. 

Lauren Xandra, National Research Group

Perhaps surprisingly, the number one entertainment-type consumers are engaging with more is movies. This June, National Research Group surveyed over 4,000 consumers around the world (US, France, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, South Korea) and found that about 1 in 2 people are watching more movies at home, as engaging experiences are missed.  

When we ask consumers what live events they miss, sports tops the charts with 57 percent of respondents choosing it as their most-missed event, followed by musical performances at 49 percent. We also find that in this moment international content is broadening its appeal to nearly half of consumers, as demand to connect to new cultures rises.  

In the meantime, while the world slowly turns a corner, marketers across live events and experiences will need to keep up with fast-changing consumer expectations. 

In lockdown, we see values at the heart of gaming and youth culture — creativity and self-expression — now resonating with a more mainstream audience. Instead of going to concerts, we are entering into digital platforms like Fortnite and Minecraft to watch artists give incredible new performances. And now that we can’t go to the movies with friends, there’s a new way to watch Netflix through “Watch Parties” that allow for instant virtual social gatherings. Finally, when sports return without fans, we can now expect the sports broadcast world to look more like a Twitch broadcast: more live polls, more toggling of camera angles, and real-time engaging chat. These pivots are particularly key for young audiences. A recent study we conducted with Snap finds that two-thirds of Gen Z say that social participation is very important across their content experiences.

Ultimately, pent-up demand for real experiences will need to be met. The in-person experience will look different — with many spaces requiring face masks and temperature checks, reduced seating capacity, and a truly contactless experience — from buying tickets to ordering concessions. 

Winning consumers back hinges upon marketers:

  1. Ensuring consistent messaging in the marketplace that allows their vertical to break through relative to other entertainment options that are also opening up. 

  2. Building back trust, which hinges on multiple safety actions.

  3. Setting and communicating what realistic expectations for success looks like in a world where many venues will be functioning at reduced capacity. 

We can’t let a pause on programming interrupt our consumer relationships, and we can’t use the old metrics of success to determine this new reality we face together.


Lauren Xandra is the Vice President of National Research Group, a global insights and strategy firm; among its clients are Google, Facebook, and Verizon. 

This piece is bonus content tied to the Fall 2020 special issue of IL’s magazine, which collects advice and insights from 25 contributors. Read the full “Innovation Matters More” magazine.