#Retrace2021: Entertainment trends that swept the media industry in 2021

From cloud gaming to the Korean wave, how entertainment avenues underwent a shift


Los Angeles: As the credits roll on 2021 and the curtain prepares to rise on 2022, we’ve put together a few previews of entertainment trends to look forward to in the coming year and beyond. The convergence of new technologies, increasing domination of smart devices like smartphones and smart TVs, 5G internet, the growing demand for streaming content combined with the omnipresent Covid lockdowns have been the driving forces behind these trends.


The global over-the-top (OTT) streaming industry is booming. According to a report published by Research Dive, the OTT market is expected to generate a revenue of $438.5 billion by 2026, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.1 per cent. The outbreak of Covid-19 has contributed to this growth, however, leading players are focusing on developing strategies to bolster growth in a post-pandemic market. Netflix leads the pack of providers with 35 per cent of the global OTT streaming market share followed by Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, Prime Video, and HBO Max.


By 2022, it is estimated that online videos will make up more than 82 per cent of internet traffic. These clips may be short, only 30 seconds or so long, but the ones that go viral have been viewed over a million times. Social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube have been trying to retain the social video throne but rising star TikTok is working hard to overthrow them benefitting from Gen-Z users during the Covid lockdowns. Growth has also been seen on Instagram which has been putting a heavy focus on optimising users’ video experience. Likewise, LinkedIn users are increasingly preferring video content over other types of posts. Twitter, Snapchat, and Vimeo are also seeing a significant uptick in video content. However, no matter which platforms are able to increase their share of users, one thing is for sure: social videos are here to stay.


The ability to play the best video games out there without the need for a console has now become a reality and has pushed this industry forward. There are estimated to be about 3.2 billion gamers in the world and very few 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. The range of video games is extensive from casino to adventure. Major offerings include Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Google’s Stadia, Sony’s PlayStation Now, and Xbox’s Project xCloud. It’s new and evolving technology but a growing trend to watch for in 2022. According to a report published by Allied Market Research, the global cloud gaming market generated $244.8 million in 2020 and is expected to reach $21.95 billion by 2030, seeing a CAGR of 57.2 per cent from 2021 to 2030.


The number of people listening to podcasts in 2022 is expected to grow to 164 million and that’s just in the US alone. Podcasts have taken off and are no longer considered a hobby but a legitimate business model with new opportunities for brands and businesses. In a world where influencers are kings and people trust them more than traditional outlets, podcasts have been an effective way for their hosts to grow their influence and share their niche viewpoints and knowledge on specific topics. In addition, with increasing tolerance for advertising - a recent survey by Nielsen found 78 per cent of listeners don’t mind sponsorship ads – podcast ad revenue is expected to grow to $1.33 billion in 2022. Now, big-name companies like 20th Century Fox and Spotify are jumping onto the podcast bandwagon, backing and developing content and, in the process, increasing the production quality and value.


Game streaming has been around since the early 2000s but now is gaining traction. It involves the streaming of video games where people broadcast themselves playing games to a live audience online. Professional streamers often combine high-level play and entertaining commentary and earn income from sponsors, subscriptions, ad revenue, and donations. Game streaming became popular on the US-based site Twitch before growing to other sites particularly in China.

In 2014, Twitch was acquired by Amazon and since then it has experienced explosive growth. In Q1 2020 alone, Twitch had more than three billion hours watched, 100 million hours streamed, and an average of 1.4 million concurrent viewers, firmly cementing it as the number one platform for game streaming worldwide.


The Korean Wave or “Hallyu” refers to the rise in South Korea’s growing international popularity for its culture encompassing dance, music, TV dramas, movies, food, and more. In 2012, the music video for “Gangnam Style” by recording artist PSY was one of the first Korean hits to go global, became the first YouTube video to reach one billion views, and spun off an international dance craze. K-Pop bands exploded onto the music scene in the early 2000s and currently boy band, BTS is South Korea’s biggest cultural currency whose sales rival big names like Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish.

In 2020, South Korea’s black comedy thriller, ‘Parasite’, written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, won a leading four awards at the 92nd Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film, becoming the first non-English language film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Now, this September, ‘Squid Game’, the South Korean survival drama series quietly premiered on Netflix and then took off like a rocket ship. With more fans coming on board every day, Bloomberg has reported that the show will bring in $900 million for Netflix (it was produced for 21.4 million). The Korean Wave is going strong and worldwide fans are enjoying the ride.

It will be interesting to see how some of these trends fare in a post-pandemic world but, at least for now, we have come to value these forms of entertainment just as the devices we access them from – our mobile phones, smart devices, laptops, and PCs.

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