Navigating the New Normal

VideoAmp Explores How “Quarantine Fatigue” is Shaping Viewing Behavior

As quarantine rolls on, VideoAmp continues to monitor changes in TV viewing behavior, its effects on how advertisers buy and sell media, as well as how consumers make purchasing decisions. As part of an ongoing effort to arm our clients and partners with the most updated and relevant information, we’re highlighting some key findings from the last few weeks.

Quarantine Accelerates the Migration to App-Based Tuning

Using data from our Smart TV providers to understand how tuning to linear TV, OTT (apps accessed through a device like Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire or Google Chromecast), and native Smart TV apps (apps accessed through the Smart TV itself) have changed throughout quarantine, we took a February average as baseline and trended each of these three sources from March 1 forward. 

In mid-March, all three sources began a precipitous climb, though both app-based sources were up roughly twice the increase in linear TV. The linear TV increase plateaus the week of March 23, then begins a slow, steady, inexorable decline back toward the February baseline. App-based TV shows no such signs of abating. 

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Clearly, we were already undergoing a shift from linear to app-based TV viewing; I expect that one lasting impact of quarantine will be the extent to which this migration has accelerated; MVPDs are seeing cable subscriptions decline, while broadband subscriptions are increasing. 

News Fatigue Sets In

At the beginning of March, before quarantine officially began, American TV viewers began to flock to news programming. We tracked the three major 24-hour cable news networks, week by week, against a February baseline. By late March, FoxNews and MSNBC were both up around 50%; CNN was up as much as 125%. As quarantine wears on into May, while shelter-in-place means viewers have more hours in the day available to watch TV, tuning to the news networks has begun to wane. Although all three networks are still markedly up, news fatigue has clearly started to set in.

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During what we’ve identified as “Early Quarantine” (the five weeks from March 9 through April 12) the three networks exhibiting the greatest increase in weekly viewing were the three  24-hour news networks; E! ranked fourth (in times of crisis, Americans need to know how the Kardashians are holding up). In the period we’re calling “Recent Quarantine,” April 13 through May 3, the news networks no longer dominate the list of networks showing the greatest increase in viewing against a February baseline.

Note that the NFL Network pops as the network with the fifth-greatest increase in viewing over February, in Recent Quarantine. Heavy Sports Viewers hunger for fresh content led to the NFL draft driving tuning for the NFL Network, as well as ABC and ESPN (visit our prior post on sports viewership during COVID-19, For the Love of the Game.)

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Linear TV Tuning Returning to Pre-Quarantine Levels

At the onset of quarantine, linear TV viewing was markedly up, and tuning remained high until the first week of May. As the weather became nicer, quarantine restrictions began to loosen up, and we all grew perhaps a little more comfortable leaving the home with masks and an appropriate amount of social distance, weekly linear tuning declined to pre-quarantine levels. Note that as seen above, app-based tuning remained up. As we move into Memorial Day weekend, we’ll see if the increase in app-based tuning holds, and we’ll also track regional differences in tuning as the country slowly opens up. 

As we continue to navigate this new normal, VideoAmp is dedicated to providing actionable insights that drive results. Learn more about how you can optimize your media spend and better understand metrics that matter.