Pass the Remote: Coronavirus, Television and Streaming Services

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It is almost surreal. Life as we know it has changed in so many ways in recent weeks due to the coronavirus and recommendations to stay at home. We are now homebound, socially distant, working from home and watching more TV. Wait, what?

Yes. Viewership is up in every time period. And news? Well we just can’t get enough of it. Financial cable news networks like CNBC and Fox Business, both locally and nationally, are seeing viewership increases of up to 95%, YoY (Source: ComScore TV Essentials Custom Reporting). But it’s not just news we are interested in.

Binge Much?

According to a study conducted by Tubi, the average American is currently streaming eight hours of content per day and finishing three TV series per week. Unbelievably, 50% of respondents have finished an entire TV series in 48 hours or less. Consumers are re-watching their favorite shows and looking for new ones as much as they keep tabs on news.

Streaming in the Recession

Consumers are getting creative with streaming service access, signing up for free trials only to cancel when the series they’re watching is over, or when their trial period is over. Sharing passwords is also gaining popularity as people crave more streaming content. News is not the only content people want to watch as they seek to divert themselves with all of the extra time they have on their hands.

Advertising — Tighter Inventory/Higher Prices

For some time periods, like Daytime (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) and Early Fringe (3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.), reporting indicates double digit increases in viewership YoY. These kind of viewership increases are not normal for this time of year, but they make sense in light of the need to stay connected and informed that many are currently experiencing. Networks, media outlets and stations are paying attention and charging accordingly, which means tighter inventory and higher prices for advertisers.

Political Impacts

At this time of year, the elephant (and the donkey) in the proverbial room is typically political advertising. However, current situations have resulted in many candidates reducing or even suspending their ad-spend for the time being, saving their dollars for an early- to mid-fall push. If this strategy holds true, it will undoubtedly impact fourth-quarter inventory availability, as well as price-per-spot costs.

Watch This Space

Linear and streaming video services are both seeing unprecedented usage, and that isn’t expected to change anytime soon. Our collective need to stay up to date with the latest local, national and world news may be experiencing a sharp spike right now due to pandemic-related events, but that is likely to continue long afterwards, as well. And, of course, our desire for entertainment will always remain a constant, producing an unrelenting need for more content and more content provider services to quickly and conveniently deliver it.

So, the question isn’t whether this current increase in overall viewership will last or not. More appropriately, the question to ask is: how will people get the news and entertainment fix they want as that need continues to grow?

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April 24, 2020by scott nelson

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