5 ways coronavirus is changing our viewing habits

What has changed in how people consume media, and what does it mean for advertisers?
25 March 2020
Family watching TV at home
andy brown

Chairman & CEO, Media Division

With many countries introducing full or partial lockdowns, millions of us are spending more time at home in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. Using data from Kantar’s currency audience measurement and advertising intelligence services, we have identified some short-term shifts in viewing behaviours across multiple markets and set out the implications for advertisers.

1. People are watching more TV during the crisis… particularly during weekdays

We are seeing higher TV viewing levels due to greater availability to view as people practice social distancing and self-isolation. In Spain, as the Spanish government announced a nationwide lockdown on Saturday 14 March, viewers spent 100 minutes longer watching TV compared to the previous Saturday (326 vs 225 mins). While we have seen significant increases in viewing in markets as diverse as Latin America (+9% across last week) and Philippines (+19%) while in Norway there was a 26% increase in viewing across the first two working days following the national lockdown.

Other things being equal, this represents potentially greater value for advertisers as audience delivery should drive down cost per thousand rates – particularly in weekday daytime slots.

2. Younger audiences are driving the increase in viewing

With school closures, the increases in viewing among younger audiences are outpacing those of older audiences. In China*, viewing among children under 14 has risen 19% in the first 11 weeks of the year, with young adults 15-34 increasing 27%. For those over 65 the increase was 9% – still nearly two hours more TV viewing than the under 35s. Meanwhile, in Spain, average minutes viewed last week increased 80% among 13-24s throughout March, compared to 23% for the over 65s.

Norway currently has the most advanced audience measurement service. We track in-home streaming via a router meter in addition to linear and timeshift viewing through our people meters. While the under 30s accounted for the majority (58%) of YouTube viewing in the first two working days following lockdown, the increase in viewing during the crisis is greatest among slightly older demographics – an increase of 62% among 30-39s vs. 33% for 20-29s.

TV amongst younger viewers is increasing during this crisis, presenting an opportunity for advertisers to reach their target audiences in proven, effective ways.

3. Breaking news and breaking audience records

TV news programmes are one of the critical sources for audiences keeping abreast of the rapidly-evolving scale of coronavirus cases and guidance from public authorities. In China, the time spent watching news programmes has more than doubled so far this year (18.5 hrs per week in 2020 vs. 9 hours last year), while Spain saw a 3.6x uplift in TV news viewing on Saturday 14th March as the government announced a national lockdown. In Denmark, 3.3 million people watched speeches given by the Prime Minister and Queen announcing a national lockdown – a 28-year record rating of 59.3%.

TV continues to demonstrate its power during major news events – advertisers can look to benefit from these large audiences but must be mindful of the environment and context within which they are advertising.

4. Growth in viewing is shared amongst linear and non-linear platforms

Perhaps the biggest story around viewership during the crisis is the boom in streaming. We have seen how the demand for Netflix has prompted it to remove HD in order to maintain European bandwidth, with Disney making a similar announcement ahead of the launch of Disney+ in many markets later this month.

Our viewing data from Norway suggests that the increase in viewing across platforms is not to the sole benefit of the streaming services. In fact, the increased screen time has been shared in the early working days of the lockdown. Linear viewing – which accounts for around 70% of all viewing – has increased by 22%, compared to 29% for Netflix, 30% for broadcaster video on-demand channels and 39% for YouTube.

A growing number of markets now measure video on demand content and, increasingly, all forms of streaming. Some markets like Norway and Italy are well-established, whilst others like UK are in the process of rolling out. The investment in measurement is significant, but at times like this, we can see the payoff in extending measurement across all distribution platforms.

5. The most impacted sectors are reducing TV advertising

In France, there has been a 10% drop in the number of different advertisers appearing on TV throughout March with automotive, food and leisure the three sectors experiencing the biggest reduction in ad time last week. This has also played-out online with a 50% drop in paid-search activity among the airline sector.

Elsewhere, we have seen in the US that automotive, quick-serve restaurants and travel advertisers have shown a double-digit drop in TV ads every week since late January. In Vietnam, spending by the travel & tourism sector fall by 50% over the last five weeks, while in China, our partners CTR have observed reductions in advertising across automotive and e-commerce but increases in cleaning products and pharmaceuticals.

In this new environment with lock downs in travel, airlines cutting capacity and seeking bailouts, it is not a surprise that the travel category is quickly reacting to withdraw from advertising. We need, however, to note that packaged goods advertising is yet to see a consistent decline, however there could be an issue around advertising goods that are not in store.

At Kantar we are committed to helping our clients across the industry to better understand changing behaviours during the Coronavirus pandemic. In the days ahead we will provide further analysis of rapidly changing media environment. If you have a question about the impact on your media strategy – or to access some of this data – please get in touch via the form below.


*Data provided by our partners CSM