Advanced Television

Report: US linear TV recovers in Q3

October 23, 2020

Samba TV, a provider of global TV data and audience analytics, has released its inaugural State of Viewership Report for 2020. This new quarterly research report provides an overview of television, movie, Connected TV (CTV), and advertising viewership in the US. It provides insights on trends and movements of audience consumption in 2020’s unique and historic TV landscape for a quarter that saw the return of live sports as well as the ramp up of political programming.

The Q3 State of Viewership Report is made up of insights from approximately 33 billion hours of TV consumption projected across millions of households in the US, US and Germany.

Samba TV’s report sheds further light on changes in television viewership, such as:

  • 2020 US Election Events Drive Viewership: The third quarter brought some of the biggest political TV events of the year so far with the party conventions, the first debate, and high-profile one-on-one interviews with the president. These key events aimed at informing the public and securing votes, saw key swing states significantly over-index in viewership along with key demographics like white Gen Xers and Boomers.

  • The Return of Live Sports Suffers from Congested Season: After a long drought, American professional sports returned in earnest in late July. As the NBA, MLB, and NHL returned, each experienced high tune-in rates across audiences as fans were eager for their teams’ return to their screens. However, these figures were still down compared to their pre-pandemic games. By the end of the quarter, the NFL maintained its lead as the most consistent driver of viewership.

  • The Ebbs and Flows of Cable News Viewership: Throughout the year, cable news has remained one of the most popular viewing options on linear TV. Peaks and valleys corresponded to Americans’ need for information in the early days of the pandemic, followed by declining interest, and then a sudden hunger for news as a nationwide protest movement kicked off in late May and continued through June. The late Q2 surge didn’t last throughout Q3 as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC all saw lower household tune-in compared with Q2. The political party conventions drew increased interest, but the networks didn’t attract viewers in droves the way they did in the early days of lockdown.

“Despite what many have said, linear TV is far from dead,” said Ashwin Navin co-founder and CEO of Samba TV. “Linear TV recovered in Q3, but not at the expense of CTV’s ongoing growth. Both are proving their staying power, bolstered by current events and the incredible diversity and quality of programming available across all platforms. While fragmentation accelerates, data will be the critical tool for marketers to plan their investments across linear and CTV. With our first State of Viewership Report, we aim to arm brands with the key metrics they need to drive higher performance and eliminate media waste in this tumultuous landscape.”


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