How TV viewing changed over 45 days of lockdown
Last month, we looked at the state of TV following the first weekend without live sports. Now we’ve got a more complete picture of COVID-19’s transformation of the TV landscape over the first 45 days of widespread lockdown mandates, with exclusive in-depth data from iSpot.tv, the TV ad measurement company, and Inscape, the ACR (automatic content recognition) company that pulls data directly from an opt-in panel of 14 million Vizio smart TVs across the U.S.
Some key insights:
Less and more
• Looking at the 45-day period from March 12 (when live sports came off the air) through April 26, TV spending year over year is down an estimated 22 percent (to $6.9 billion), according to iSpot. Automaker spending is down 54 percent, travel spend is hovering near nothing (save for opportunistic private jet companies), wireless is down 33 percent and movie studios are down 85 percent (from $278 million to $38 million).
• The media value dedicated to the promotion of streaming services has more than doubled at 120 percent YoY. And the remaining movie studio TV spend? It’s gone to driving VOD purchases of titles, most notably “Trolls 2” (see “‘Trolls World Tour’ Breaks Digital Records and Charts a New Path for Hollywood,” from The Wall Street Journal).
• As Ad Age recently reported, there are 26 percent more brands advertising on TV compared to a year ago. This trend can be attributed in part to the rise of d-to-c brands, the expanding TV universe and the implementation of digital-like impression/segment-based measurement that allows brands to buy and evaluate more seamlessly across digital and TV and be more responsive to the marketplace. Overall, brands advertising on TV are getting smarter and more real-time. For example, over the 45 days measured, some 326 brands came to market with new pandemic-appropriate messaging, according to iSpot.
• Overall TV viewing and advertising is up. Looking at week-over-week delivery of ads across linear, VOD and OTT, there were 9.3 percent more ads delivered to homes vs. the same period a year ago. In raw numbers, that amounts to 81.3 billion more ad deliveries over the 45 days measured vs. the same time period last year.
• While many marketers have cut TV spending, viewer migration to new (cheaper) dayparts gives brands that are staying in TV the ability to reach more people for less. Across most industries, brands are getting away with shaving spending, but their reach is the same or even better than last year.
• TV reach may be cheaper at the moment, but it’s hard to quantify the value a brand gets from placing itself inside of seminal cultural events like the NCAA Tournament. The last thing TV wants is to become another place for just more impressions for impressions’ sake.
• While “Tiger King” topped the binge-watching hype machine, viewers are gorging on more than just Netflix content. According to Inscape, police procedurals “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” are the most binged time-shifted shows over the past two weeks. (By “time-shifted” we mean linear TV shows that had an initial airing at a specific date and time, unlike content from Netflix and other streaming players.) Looking at March 12 through April 26, “American Idol” leads, followed by “Chicago P.D.” and “The Voice,” based on minutes binged as a percent of all binged shows that Inscape measured.
• iSpot data shows that sports-watching homes have been watching more morning talk, movies and children’s programming (thanks to home-from-school kids). What’s more, data from Inscape shows that plenty of sports fans are, of course, still watching sports of some kind—typically re-airings of “classic” games. That said, recent real-time viewership spikes for events like ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (8 percent of smart TV households, according to Inscape) and the NFL Draft (10 percent of smart TV households) show how strong of a draw “new” remains for sports programming.
The surge in TV viewing is leading to new behaviors
As more people are watching more TV, they’re also discovering more free ad-supported TV services (the so-called FASTs) including Tubi, Xumo, Roku and Vizio’s WatchFree. The latter—which includes on-demand content from the likes of CNN, Comedy Central, MTV and Bloomberg Television—has seen a 108 percent surge in tune-in during the period measured with viewers now spending an average of 34 minutes streaming programming per session.
Will these recent trends hold? TV has seemingly settled into a sort of “new normal” along with the rest of us. But with rising talk of easing up on lockdown restrictions, there’s a good chance we’re looking at an entirely new dynamic another six weeks from now.