Broadcast TV viewership has been on a steady decline for years, but Covid-19 has driven a recent uptick in viewership. 

Since early March, broadcast networks across the board have seen an increase in viewership and ratings. Though this trend may not last forever, it certainly is having an impact on the world of TV advertising now. 

MediaRadar compiled the data to see just how much of an impact Covid-19 is having on the TV ad industry. 

We encourage you to subscribe to our blog for the latest data surrounding the advertising industry. We will provide daily updates as COVID-19 continues to make its mark on the US economy.

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TV Viewership is Up, But For How Long?

With the widespread stay-at-home orders, Americans are watching more cable TV. 

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise because streaming and social media are both up too. 

TV ratings are surging — and it’s not just among older people. Younger generations, who are more likely to use streaming or Youtube instead, are watching more TV as well. 

“Widespread ratings surges are exceedingly rare in the age of cord-cutting to begin with,” reports Adam Epstein at Quartz. “Especially now, at the time of the year when days get longer and warmer and we spend more time outdoors.” With no option to go outside, they turn on the TV (despite thinner programming).

While the numbers were up in March, it appears that TV usage began to level off in April

We don’t know how long the gains will last. Some states are reopening, albeit gradually. As people return to work and other activities, many will still be nervous about the virus. The return to ‘normal’ is not likely to happen quickly. 

While viewership and ratings haven’t dropped back down to previous levels yet, they may decline as people start doing pre-COVID activities.

MediaRadar Insights

With this uptick in TV viewership, we analyzed the impact it was having on TV programming and advertiser spending. 

When it comes to news and entertainment, programming spend is holding steady compared to pre-COVID levels. 

Kids’ entertainment, on the other hand, saw a significant jump. Weekly advertising investment rose 68% on average between February and March. While the increase is large, it still remains a very small part of the overall TV advertising landscape. 

We know that sports suffered significantly with the cancellation of live events. 

Ad spend from the week of March 23rd was 93% lower for sports programming compared to last year. The biggest loss was due to the cancellation of March Madness. Last year in March, college basketball brought in over 1.3B in ad dollars.

That being said, the recent NFL draft brought a much needed boost to sports ad sales. 

TV ad spend sports Covid

One sport that remained unaffected over this time period was wrestling. Wrestling content continues to consistently take in about $3M in ad revenue per week. The WWE pre-tapes much of their content, but after Florida ruled wrestling an essential business, the WWE began releasing live content again from an Orlando arena with no fans. 

Despite the market, there are industries who quickly increased their advertising investment in TV.

TV ad category

Toys and games were up by about 100% and bottled water was up 45%. Household products and streaming services also boosted their spend.

While many parts of the US are eager to return to a normal economy, it will likely be a slow process. We will continue to share our findings on the impact Covid-19 is continuing to have on advertising. 

For more updates like this, stay tuned. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on coronavirus and its mark on the economy.