Many markets around the world recorded spikes in average TV viewing trends locally compared to the same periods a year ago as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. Countries such as Cyprus and Greece in particular had a significant increase in TV viewership compared with 2019 as people spent more time at home.

In SA viewership numbers peaked in April and May compared with the same period in 2019, with a higher number of viewers earlier in the day. However, as lockdown restrictions began to be lifted TV viewing patters have started to return to levels more consistent with 2019, reported Jonathan Wells, SVP data science at Nielsen Media.

Wells was sharing information from SA and across the globe about both viewership trends and advertising spend at day two of the recent Pamro virtual conference. The event was titled Vision 2020 African Decade, African Data, African Growth. The three-day conference was made possible by Borderless Access, DStv Media Sales, Nielsen and Telmar.

The trends suggest, said Wells, that Covid-19 is unlikely to have long-term or sustained impacts on viewing levels.

Streaming data from the US indicates that overall streaming numbers are down from the peaks of the earlier days of the pandemic. However, year on year streaming growth is still very significant.  Eroding TV viewership is the result of a shift to streaming services, says Wells. And though Netflix’s share of the streaming market was declining, Disney Plus’s share of the market has grown considerably since its launch.

Interestingly, there is an even split between younger and older subscribers of streaming services, indicating that streaming is not the exclusive domain of younger audiences. In fact, 25% of streaming subscribers are over the age of 55. A further observation is that of the US households that subscribe to streaming services, 25% have increased the number of streaming products they buy.

As far as advertising trends are concerned, Wells said that though there were significant drops in adspend globally in the first half of the year, performance was starting to improve in July. Total volume across all media was down 25.3% in the first half of 2020 versus the first half of 2019, with TV and radio dropping 29% and 45% respectively.

These data points were starting to reverse in the second half of the year, with some growth reported in adspend relative to 2019, indicating that the marketplace is adjusting to a new reality and as advertisers take advantage of reduced prices from broadcasters.

The height of Covid-19 produced the biggest year-on-year decreases in adspend in SA, with cinema and direct mail particularly hard hit. The total of all media spend decreased in the first half of 2020 by 19.21%. However, the latest data suggests that year-on-year spending is slowly improving.

As restrictions ease, advertisers’ messaging is adapting to reflect a new world. Messaging is increasingly supporting businesses as they recover or focusing on getting comfortable with working from home, valuing the planet and appreciating families and loved ones, pointed out Wells.

“There is no question that life in lockdown has changed how we perceive our world, while the pandemic has been a catalyst for change,” said Wells. “The challenge for businesses will be how they influence consumer confidence and regain trust, balancing the short-term opportunity with the long-term reality.”

To view day two of the conference click here

The big take-out:

The Covid-19 pandemic changed media viewing trends and had a significant impact on advertising spend.


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