The 7 Biggest Entertainment Trends of 2021
Here are the 7 biggest entertainment trends in 2021. And specific examples of what's pushing each trend forward.
Whether you're in the entertainment industry or just looking for something fun to pass the time, these are the top trends to watch.
1. Social Video Takes Off
Searches for "TikTok" over time.
With Facebook Watch, Facebook is doing everything it can to steal the social media video throne. (The one YouTube has been sitting on for years.)
And with 1.25 billion monthly viewers, it may be working.
But while Facebook has impressive numbers, it's far from trendy.
TikTok, on the other hand, is a rocketship.
At the time of writing, the biggest new video-based social network has over 800 million monthly active users.
Meanwhile, Facebook's social video push is extending on to its other platforms. IGTV, launched by Instagram in 2018, is now integrated into the main app.
While it has not exploded in the same manner as their Stories feature, there are some signs of promise.
A recent mini-series created by soccer stars Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson was hosted exclusively on IGTV. And some individual episodes attracted upwards of a million views.
But no matter which platform ends up on top, one thing is for sure: social video is a huge trend.
As 5G coverage expands through 2021 and beyond, video streaming and download speeds will rise.
And we think social video usage will, too.
2. More Streaming Services Come Out
Online searches for "Amazon Prime Video".
Paid over-the-top or OTT streaming services have been popping up left and right to compete with incumbents like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
Quibi crashed and burned with its short-form offering.
But the idea of a clearly-defined niche has been working elsewhere in the streaming world.
Crunchyroll, a dedicated anime service, has seen really strong search growth. And now has over 3 million paying subscribers.
At the same time, Disney is using its deep back catalog to attract subscribers to its service, Disney+. And it has plenty of new programming too, like their flagship show, The Mandalorian.
3. Cloud Gaming Goes Mainstream
"Cloud gaming" searches over time. Several related acquisitions and product announcements caused a splash in 2018. Then 2019 was a quieter year for cloud gaming. But from 2020 onwards the search term has really gathered pace.
There are lots of entertainment trends in the gaming industry happening right now.
Virtual reality and augmented reality gaming tech is making strides.
Esports are gaining steam.
And mobile gaming is more popular than ever.
But the most important gaming trend of 2021 may be cloud gaming.
There are about 3 billion gamers in the world. And very few of them have the hardware required to play the latest, most demanding games.
Cloud gaming solves this problem by streaming video game content from remote servers to your device.
That way, your computer (or phone, or smart TV) isn't the one doing the heavy lifting.
There may be a bumpy road ahead for cloud gaming, like any new technology. But it looks like in the future, anyone with a good Internet connection will be able to play the best games.
4. Podcasting Becomes a Mainstream Medium
Online interest in the podcast network Wondery.
In 2021, it's expected that 120 million people will listen to podcasts at least once per month.
And that's in the U.S. alone.
By 2023, that number is estimated to grow to 164 million.
Amateur podcasts are springing up every day. In fact, there are now over 1.5 million active podcasts.
But the industry is also getting a lot more professional.
And podcast networks are aggressively buying and developing new series. Some include tie-ins to current events and popular TV shows.
Wondery in particular has been on a tear lately.
Wondery's top podcast series.
These podcast networks have attracted plenty of attention from investors with deep pockets.
Wondery has backing from 20th Century Fox as well as VC firms like Greycroft and Lerer Hippeau Ventures.
While the podcast and entertainment network The Ringer was acquired by Spotify in 2020 for $196 million.
That followed their $337 million purchases of Gimlet Media and Anchor back in 2019.
With so much money at stake, you can bet that the writing, stars, and production quality of the average podcast will just keep getting better.
5. New(ish) Sports Sprout Up
Online searches for "bikepacking" over time.
Fitness is a "meta trend" that's impacting lots of areas of our lives.
But outside the house, things are more interesting:
If you don't mind a little danger, axe throwing has been taking off.
Axe throwing lanes at Bad Axe Throwing.
Or if you'd enjoy an adventure in the great outdoors, there's also bikepacking.
(Yes, that's backpacking on a bike.)
And who isn't up for a friendly game of pickleball?
These activities may not be 100% new, but they've been getting more popular each year. And they're poised to hit the mainstream in 2021.
6. The Korean Wave Goes Worldwide
Searches for the term "mukbang".
The Korean Wave (or Hallyu) refers to the way South Korean culture is gaining international popularity. It's been happening in Asia since the '90s, but has picked up more steam in the West recently.
Here are a few examples.
In February 2020, Korean-language Parasite became the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture at the Oscars.
Next, the Korean eating "sport" mukbang is reaching new heights in 2021.
Videos and streams of people eating on YouTube and Twitch are attracting large Western audiences, pulling in up to tens of millions of views each.
Finally, K-pop is finding a bigger international audience as well.
Many K-pop groups had planned tours across North America in 2020, before the coronavirus thwarted those ambitions. And the supergroup BTS made a big splash in April with their live #HomeFest performance on the Late Late Show with James Corden.
7. Fans support creators directly
Searches for the term "Patreon", a crowdsourced funding site for creators of all types.
Why has direct fan support has become one of the biggest trends in entertainment over the last few years?
According to emarketer.com, approximately 48.3m American households have "cut the cord" (removed or rejected traditional cable TV). While many folks turn to streaming services to fill the gap, others find themselves consuming content directly from individual creators on YouTube.
The problem is: many creators have a difficult time making a living off of YouTube ad revenue. Especially those that cover a niche topic, like knitting or a specific gaming or movie genre.
Crowdfunding sites like Pateon have exploded to help fans support creators directly.
Unlike Kickstarter, Patreon supporters voluntarily pay a monthly fee that goes directly to the creator. In exchange, supporters usually get some sort of bonus content, like live Q&A sessions.
While most creators use Patreon to supplement their income, others are making a killing from this model. For example, artist Amanda Palmer brings in an estimated $25k/month from her Patreon supporters.
And the True Crime Obsessed podcast is thought to bring in over $190,000 in monthly revenue.
That's About It
Those are the 7 most important entertainment trends for 2021.
The entertainment industry is quickly moving from the living room to our pockets.
And the companies that adapt to this shift in where and how consumers are entertained are poised to become media mainstays.