US TV audiences turn to news & religious content

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605, a television measurement and analytics company, has published insights revealing increased viewership of news and religious programming in March 2020 as Covid-19 spread across the US. The insights were derived from 605 PLATF0RM, a web-based application that provides national television networks, advertisers and agencies with measurement and analysis across linear, over-the-air, DVR and STB VoD from over 21 million US households across all 210 DMAs.

The annual NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, together known as ‘March Madness’, draw millions of viewers each year. However, this year’s cancellation of March Madness due to the Covid-19 pandemic has forced audiences to turn elsewhere for content to consume. PLATF0RM data found that rather than keeping close to their routine by watching other sports programming, viewers turned their attention instead to the news. Among 2019 viewers of March Madness, there was a 43 per cent decrease in viewership of sports talk and documentary programs in 2020 compared to the year before, suggesting a mental shift away from sports and toward following the global crisis.

Other key takeaways pertaining to sports viewership are:

  • Viewers who watched March Madness in 2019 increased their viewership of news 32.3 per cent – a larger increase than seen among the total population, which increased news viewership by 30.6 per cent.
  • Among 2019 March Madness viewers: 64.8 per cent more households are watching CNN; 36.7 per cent more are watching Fox News and 11.7 per cent more are watching MSNBC.

Viewers in general have turned to news programming to stay informed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Across households in the US, minutes spent viewing news went up 31.5 per cent in March 2020 compared to the previous month – resulting in a 79 per cent increase in households watching CNN, a 44 per cent increase for FOX News and a 20.1 per cent increase for MSNBC from February 2020.

“With more Americans staying home, there is an obvious expectation of increased TV viewership. Meanwhile, networks, advertisers and agencies are looking to better target, reach and interact with their key audiences, especially during this period of amplified attention,” said Noah Levine, Chief Revenue Officer at 605. “605 PLATF0RM is able to power informed decision-making on behalf of our network, programmer and agency clients by going beyond measuring the basics, like how many people are watching, and providing fulsome analysis around what content is being consumed across devices and over time, bridging data-driven linear with addressable and cross-platform insights.”

As the number of households staying home grew throughout the month of March, an increase was also seen in audiences tuning to religious programming.

  • Average household viewership of religious programming was 44.5 per cent higher in the last week of March 2020 compared to the first week, demonstrating that viewership continued to increase throughout the month as more families sheltered in place.
  • 4.56 million homes that watched less than five minutes of religious programming in March 2019 are now watching much more of it, accounting for a 6.7 per cent increase in viewership of religious programming.

This analysis is based on data from the 605 PLATF0RM solution, which was the first to uniquely offer the ability to combine TV viewership datasets, allowing customers to “bring your own” viewership data and combine it with 605’s data in a secure, privacy compliant virtual “clean room.” Users can easily access second-by-second viewing information and activate anonymized data at the household level, eliminating the need for look-alike modeling that reduces accuracy during the data activation process. In an era with increased time-shifted viewing of niche content across various devices, PLATF0RM empowers customers to move beyond the existing limitations in measurement to analyze all time-shifted viewership across live, DVR and STB VOD – covering recent viewership or going as far back as two years. Additionally, an API is available for integration with in-house and third-party tools.


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