Report: Meta drives growth in social video time spent

This year, social video will account for over 10 percent of all time spent on digital media in the U.S. for the first time. That's a major milestone and reflects the changing nature of where and how people consume video content, eMarketer reports. While TikTok still dominates the social video space, Meta's Reels has made big gains, and that's having a ripple effect across the entire TV and video landscape.

Between 2019 and 2022, Meta's share of total time spent on social video in the U.S. fell from 51.8 percent to 37.4 percent as TikTok steadily reduced time spent on Facebook and Instagram. But 2023 was a turning point for Meta, and eMarketer projects Meta will account for 40.8 percent of U.S. adults' social video time this year.

“Facebook and Instagram are now video-first platforms,” ​​said Jasmine Enberg, chief analyst at eMarketer. “Reels doesn't have the cultural prestige of TikTok, but it has grown out of TikTok's shadow. Even without the prospect of a TikTok ban, which would likely drive many users and advertisers to Instagram, Reels is thriving.”

Last year was also the first time that videos accounted for the majority (51.2 percent) of time spent on Meta's sites. Given Meta's size, this represents a major shift in both social and general media usage. At 20 minutes per day, Meta videos will account for 5 percent of the total time U.S. adults spend watching linear and digital TV in 2024.

“The lines between social and video platforms are blurred,” Enberg said. “Meta is not-so-subtly courting TikTok creators through algorithmic changes that make smaller Instagram accounts easier to discover, while TikTok is increasingly encroaching on YouTube's turf with longer videos. YouTube is challenging streaming video players like Netflix by moving ever further into the CTV space.”

Videos are driving an unusually high increase in time spent on Facebook. Our latest forecast projects that the time spent on Facebook by adult U.S. users will increase by 1.2 percent in 2024 compared to last year. This is a reversal from the previous forecast, in which eMarketer predicted a 1.7 percent decline in time spent on Facebook. The upcoming U.S. election is likely to drive additional usage. But Reels is the main reason for the unusual increase in the forecast, as users' time spent on video is expected to increase by 9.4 percent this year.

“After years of decline, the unexpected increase in time spent on the platform is good news for Facebook,” Enberg said. “But that won't last beyond this year, and Facebook is still struggling with stagnation in overall time spent on the platform. Twenty years after its launch, Facebook is no longer the hangout of the cool college students, and that's a hindrance to its long-term growth prospects.”

The last year was significant for Instagram: US adult users' time spent on the app increased 9.5 percent to 34 minutes, over 4 percentage points higher than our previous growth forecast of 5.3 percent. Reels is the main driver of the growth (and additional increase) in time spent. eMarketer expects video to continue to be the main driver of engagement on Instagram this year.

Meta's successes are improving, but time spent on Instagram and Facebook still pales in comparison to TikTok. eMarketer expects adult TikTok users in the U.S. to spend an average of 54 minutes on the app in 2024. That's 3 minutes more than users will spend on YouTube and 19 minutes more than users will spend on Instagram. Almost all of that time on TikTok is spent watching videos.

“TikTok is a leader in social video, but time spent growing has stagnated,” Enberg said. “Part of that slowdown is natural given how much time users already spend on the app. TikTok is working hard to reverse that trend through longer videos and shopping, but those efforts haven't made much of a difference so far. The good news is that they're not hurting the app either.”