Woman on sofa drinking coffee and watching tv

Current Impact of COVID-19 on Consumer Media Consumption

Millions of Americans are adjusting to their new “norm” due to the pandemic crisis. To deal with the solitude, they are turning to media to fill their time and ease their qualms. And, they are not just turning to one source to bide some time with and catch the latest update, but television, cable, streaming services and radio all have seen large increases of media consumption over the last few weeks.

ComScore released a report yesterday stating the cable networks saw an increase of 73% of viewership during the week of March 16-20 versus the same period in 2019. The major broadcast networks have also seen an increase of 19% YoY as people turn to the news to find out the latest updates, as well as to fill the silence in their homes or drown out the kids who are now home indefinitely. The highest increases in viewership occurred during Daytime (102%) and Early Fringe (82%) dayparts. It’s not just all the national programs that are seeing the lift, Nielsen reports that local news viewership is up 7% on average between early February and the week of March 9, for persons aged two and older.

Streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu are seeing a huge influx of new subscribers as well with people looking for more entertainment options in their homes. In fact, Mintel reports that in one weekend Netflix gained 250,000 new subscribers.

Radio is seeing similar increases in listenership. Nielsen conducted a survey March 20-22 showing consumers hold radio in high regard with 60% of Adults 18+ saying they trust radio to give timely information about the coronavirus. As well as 83% of American adults also reporting they are spending the same or more time with radio as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

And last, but definitely not least, with so many working and schooling from home, data usage is increasing. ComScore Total Home Panel data shows that the average in-home data usage is up 18% so far in March 2020 (March 1-17) YoY and this is before the true start of the new reality. Mobile phones, smart speakers, connected TV’s and streaming boxes have the highest usage increases.

So, what does this mean for your business’s marketing? We have had several conversations over the last few weeks with our clients about how to adjust their advertising and there is not one right answer for all. While everyone wants to know what other clients are doing, our recommendations are vastly different depending on the industry.

For telecom, B2B, eCommerce, CPG and health industries, now is not the time to back down on advertising. People are home and bored and trying to stay focused with kids and work, but are still finding some time to do more things or distract us, like shopping online, reading industry news and realizing how badly we need to switch to a better internet plan or provider. The tourism/hospitality industry has been hit very, very hard and how long it will take to recover after the pandemic nobody knows. However, the recent reports from the countries who were hit earliest by the coronavirus, show that as soon as stay-at-home orders were lifted, leisure travel spiked immediately, as well as luxury goods spending, or my new favorite term: revenge spending. Tourism clients and luxury brands should also keep a maintenance level of media to sustain their brand awareness and keep people dreaming of their vacation getaway.

What we learned after 9/11, we need to practice now. If advertisers go dark, it will take a long time to regain the brand awareness and familiarity you have right now.

We are in an uncertain time right now, take a moment to evaluate your marketing goals and objectives before you decide to pull the plug on advertising. We have seen from our big national brands that you can do a lot with just transitioning the creative message to a softer sales message. Or, if you are an industry that has been hit heavily, you can put more emphasis in your owned media channels with organic social media and emails. Americans are consuming more media than they have in years and are looking for ways to fill their time. Who knows when this will happen again, make sure you are evaluating your options, so you don’t miss out on this unique opportunity.