Stacey has over 25 years of experiences working with some of the biggest brands in the world. When she's not busy taking care of the "fur babies" she's at the kiln busting out new pottery.

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Canadian Media Usage in 2020 – How Has the Pandemic Changed Things?

Every year, IAB Canada commissions and releases a study on media usage trends in the country. CMUST, which stands for Canadian Media Usage Study, covers a variety of topics from reach and time spent for all measured media channels by major age groups, and identifies emerging trends over the past year. In order to access the studies, companies must be IAB Canada members.

Coffee mug of someone binge watching streaming video.

This year’s study looked at multi-year trends to try to balance out the impact the pandemic had and continues to have, on how consumers use media. The study also predicts what trends are short-term and what may stick around. I’ve included my own predictions here as well, so read on!

Let’s review the study’s findings and discuss if they are long-term or short-term trends.

Media Usage & Trends

The Internet

The Internet, which includes a countless number of websites and apps accessed by a variety of devices, is the top reaching medium for total adults. The Internet first overtook Television as the top reaching medium in the 2019 study. In terms of time spent, it sits #2 behind Television with 23.7 hours per week, versus Television at 24.9 hours.

The study predicts that increases in usage of the internet in general, video gaming, and digital video are short-term trends due to pandemic, and gains in the use of over-the-top (OTT) providers (Netflix, Disney+, Crave etc.) and digital audio (music streaming, podcasts, online radio) are long-term.

Stacey’s prediction – Alternatives to broadcast television, such as OTT and video streaming services, will continue to grow in terms of both reach and time spent.

Broadcast Television

Broadcast Television remains the top measured media for time spent and second to Internet reach amongst Adults 18+. Over time, television usage has been relatively stable – 96% reach in 2001 and 91% reach in 2020, and 25.5 hours per week in 2001 and 24.9 in 2020. For younger adults aged 18-34, both weekly reach and time spent have been declining. This year, the study shows 86% reach and 9.8 hours per week for 18-24 and 82% reach and 11.9 hours per week for 25-34.

Young adults aged 18-34 use of digital video – mobile, desktop/laptop, OTT, and AVOD – is growing in terms of weekly reach and time spent. Mobile ranks first in reach at ~ 85% with this group spending the most time per week with OTT at ~ 20 hours power week.

The study predicts that overall declines in television viewing will continue in the long-term, increases in digital video are short-term trends, and OTT growth is a long-term trend.

Stacey’s prediction – During the pandemic, television viewing grew specifically with new programming in the early days and then dropped off due to the lack of live sports. With the pandemic being an everyday issue we are still dealing with (making it somewhat less ‘newsworthy’) and live sports returning, television viewing has come back to pre-pandemic levels. Over time, however, broadcast television reach will continue to decline. As more digital video options emerge, traditional broadcast television reach and time spent will continue to decline as younger generations age, in particular Gen Z and most definitely their children, Gen Alpha. Traditional television will be replaced. Maybe not before my retirement, but definitely in my lifetime 🙂

Broadcast Radio

Broadcast Radio has seen a 1% reduction in reach YOY, from 87% in 2019 to 86% this year. Time spent declined slightly, from 14.6 hours per week to 14.4 hours in 2020. The study reports that formats are consistent for both total adults and young adults ages 18-34 – radio, music, podcasts, and online radio in order from highest to lowest reach and time spent. The key differences between the two are that all adults listen to radio more and for longer, and young adults listen to podcasts more and longer.

The study predicts that the overall decline in the time spent with radio is short-term.

Stacey’s prediction – The decline in radio listening during the pandemic was predominantly due to the drop off in in-vehicle listening as many consumers started working from home and commuting was reduced. With employees proving that remote working has increased productivity (for the most part), companies are looking at making this a permanent option and saving costs on real estate. If this thinking pans out and employers are more open to remote workers, in-vehicle listening will not recover, at least in terms of time spent, and reach may not fully recover to pre-pandemic levels.

Newspaper and Magazine

Newspaper and Magazine readership and time spent continues to decline year over year. These media continue to feel the impact of the continued growth of the internet. CMUST 2020 shows that the reach of newspaper and magazine was 44% and 43% respectively. 

The study does not explore print in great detail, likely due to the lack of frequent audience data.

Stacey’s prediction – Despite the decline in readership and time spent, print media still has a place. Older and more affluent audiences continue to have significant control and influence on consumer spending. And new magazines continue to launch, targeting niche and vibrant communities, such as Melanistic which launched in winter 2020. For newspapers, governments on behalf of news publishers will continue to battle with the likes of Facebook and Google for fair compensation for the use of their content. IF they are successful, news companies like The Globe and Mail, Postmedia, Rogers, and so on may be in a position to better fund local journalism and printing.


Out-of-home reach and time spent are not part of the study, however, it does predict that overall exposure decline for OOH is a short-term trend.

Stacey’s prediction – Like broadcast radio, OOH exposure experienced a decline as fewer people drove to work and is still being affected by provincial government restrictions with respect to reducing the spread of the virus.

Overall Ad Spend

In terms of ad spending overall, digital advertising investment exceeds its share of time spent. This appears to be driven by Search with non-search spend lower than its share of time spent. And digital video has a lower share of spend in comparison to its share of time spent.

Stacey’s prediction – Digital ad spend share will continue to exceed the share of time spent. More and more advertisers are prioritizing short-term gains over long-term brand building. And volume over quality is very enticing, especially when Facebook and Google dominate the digital space. This is especially true when businesses are trying to maintain revenue, grow revenue, or even keep the lights on during a pandemic and a struggling economy like we are experiencing in Alberta.

Media usage is evolving and will continue to as new media partners and new media channels are introduced and as younger generations age. The Internet was emerging as a communications tool and content source as I was entering the advertising industry. It has been an incredibly exciting and challenging time to see how it has changed how consumers spend their time, make purchases, and changed the media landscape. I look forward to seeing what the next CMUST study shows us.