Audiences prefer live events to digital

January 2024

Cultural Participation Monitor Wave 9 | Summer 2023

This research is from The Audience Agency's nationwide longitudinal (ongoing) panel survey of changing views about participating in creative and cultural activities through the recent and ongoing crises, and beyond, the Cultural Participation Monitor.


This report uses data from wave 9 of the Cultural Participation Monitor (CPM) to understand the extent audiences engage with live versus digital events, finding that:

  • All audiences prefer live events, followed by at home viewing and then watching at a cinema screening.
  • Lower engaged segments are more open to viewing at home and at the cinema compared to higher engaged segments.
  • Younger people are more open to all viewing platforms and artforms compared to audiences aged 45 and over

People prefer to see live events in the first instance  

Unsurprisingly, for all art forms measured, a higher proportion were interested in seeing them live compared to at a cinema screening or at home. This was also true for all demographic groups looked at, as well as all Audience Spectrum segments. Metroculturals have the highest overall level of interest in seeing artforms live compared to Up Our Street and Supported Communities that have the lowest level of interest in live shows comparatively. Supported Communities have the highest level of interest in seeing artforms at home compared to all other segments.  

The ratio to which each artform appealed was at a similar distribution across all Audience Spectrum groups, with Musicals (59%), Rock/Pop (63%) and New Plays (50%) the most popular and Dance (32%), Ballet (32%) and Opera (31%) the least popular. 

A bar chart demonstrating the different percentages that each artform appeals for each platform

People prefer to see artforms at home (online/on TV) rather than at cinema screenings 

Following audiences’ preferences to see live events, people preferred to view these same artforms at home (online/on TV) before seeing them at a cinema screening. Experience Seekers found home (45%) or cinema screenings (44%) more appealing compared to the other highly engaged segments Metroculturals (41%, 34%) and Commuterland Culturebuffs (35%, 25%). Whilst lower engaged segments had a higher level of interest in seeing events at home or at the cinema compared to other Audience Spectrum segments, particularly for at home viewing for Supported Communities (71%), Kaleidoscope Creativity (59%) and Frontline Families (62%).  

A bar chart outlining each Audience Spectrum segment's percentage of how appealing each viewing platform is to them

Younger Audiences are more open to viewing artforms via digital platforms  

How much each artform appealed was also largely consistent by age group (even though this doesn’t match the profile of attenders), with live events appealing more, followed by at home and at a cinema screening. 

All modes of artforms appeal to those under the age of 45 more compared to those 45 and over. There is, however, a larger difference between viewing arts/cultural events via a cinema screening, with younger audiences more open to viewing events via this platform compared to older audiences. The gap between the two age categories was the largest for cinema screenings standing between 9%-15% difference across all art forms, with New Plays at the higher end and Ballet at the lower. 

A line chart that illustrates how appealing an artform is for people under the age of 45 versus those aged 45 and over

Although cinema screenings appeal to a significant number, this data suggests that audiences would prefer to watch at home if they are not going to be seeing it live. This perhaps relates to the COL crisis, and a desire by some to be immersed at a live event. 

a bar chart demonstrating viewing platforms and how they appeal for those under the age of 45 and those aged 45 and over

Overall, all groups prefer live events, however, younger audiences are more open to watching events via a variety of viewing platforms compared to older audiences, whilst lower engaged segments are also more open to watching online or at a cinema screening. Age differences are reflecting artform preferences, with the ratio in changes between viewing platforms being relatively the same across ages.  

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