As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, U.S. consumers are being asked to avoid social gatherings and “take refuge” from their homes, and media consumption is ready. Total TV usage has grown by nearly 60 per cent in the latest major crisis in U.S. history that has forced consumers to stay at home, according to Nielsen. The company found that total TV usage had begun to rise in the most affected markets.
For example, compared to a week ago, Nielsen found a 22 percent increase in total TV usage in the Seattle/Tacoma area. TV usage in New York and Los Angeles grew by 8% over the same period. For some groups, the use rate is much higher. Nielsen found that the number of Seattle teenagers who were suspended from school increased by 104 percent during that period.
It is important to make it clear that the total amount of television usage includes viewing traditional live TV, DVR recordings, on-demand and streaming services or other content from any TV, game console or connected device.
But the potential for television could be further enhanced. During the crisis, TV ratings are expected to surge as consumers increase media consumption to keep the message informed and time-consuming.
Nielsen did not officially predict that the COVID-19 pandemic would raise television ratings to levels associated with historical crises. But it does point out that American consumers have traditionally turned to television during major crises.
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in August 2017, for example, Nielsen’s analysis found that total television usage increased by 56 percent over the period affected compared to the previous period. During the blizzard that hit New York over the weekend of January 23, 2016, the total amount of television used in Saturday’s snowstorm was 45 percent higher than on the previous Saturday.
These are, of course, isolated incidents of limited duration. The COVID-19 crisis is different because it not only affects a region, it will not end in a few days or weeks. At these events, Mr. Nielsen said, customers trapped at home are watching feature films, news and general programming. Streaming usage jumped 61% during that period.
The greater impact of COVID-19 may come from the recent telecommuting workforce in the United States. Nielsen’s previous data showed that employees working on remote smoldering hours monday through Friday watched traditional television three hours more per week, 21 hours, 56 minutes and 25 hours and 2 minutes, respectively, than non-remote workers.
The changes in media consumption associated with the COVID-19 crisis come at a time when U.S. media consumption has reached an all-time high. Before the pandemic, U.S. consumers spent less than 12 hours a day using media platforms, and three-quarters of U.S. consumers were expanding their media choices through streaming subscriptions and TV-connected devices.
Trends in other parts of the world suggest that COVID-19 will allow users to stream more. For example, first installs of Netflix apps increased by 57% and 34%, respectively, in Italy and Spain, according to Sensor Tower. In addition, live streaming on YouTube, Twitch, Facebook and Mixer in Italy grew by more than 66 percent in the first week of February, according to StreamElements, and the number of channels viewed by viewers nearly doubled.