MediaRadar Blog

How Covid-19 is Impacting the TV Industry

How Covid-19 is Impacting the TV Industry

The number of streaming households outpaced homes paying for traditional TV for the first time last year. But that doesn’t mean that TV viewership is off the table when it comes to advertising.

Early into the pandemic MediaRadar began tracking how our new lifestyle was impacting TV advertising. We saw increased spending from categories like toys and games and household cleaning products. At the same time, sports advertising plummeted. 

It’s been nearly a year and a half since the beginning of the pandemic—have these impacted TV categories leveled off or recovered?

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.

MediaRadar Blog Signup

Traditional TV viewership reportedly decreased, but networks want trust and accuracy

With the widespread stay-at-home orders, Americans initially watched more cable TV last spring. TV ratings were surging. Even younger generations, who are more likely to use streaming platforms, were watching more traditional TV. 

This mattered because it appeared to counter the shift to streaming. 

“Widespread ratings surges are exceedingly rare in the age of cord-cutting to begin with,” reported Adam Epstein at Quartz. “Especially now, at the time of the year when days get longer and warmer and we spend more time outdoors.” 

However, the increase in viewership proved temporal. Thinner programming, tighter bills and the increase of streaming options likely led to the decrease of viewership.

By Q3 of 2020, viewership of traditional TV was decreasing across age groups, according to Nielsen. But here’s the trouble: according to broadcast networks, Nielsen was undercounting viewership. 

When TV networks called for Nielsen to lose its accreditation, the ratings firm submitted a hiatus request to the Media Rating Council (MRC).

“Nielsen has essentially announced ‘you can’t fire me, I quit’ just hours before the MRC suspension vote process is activated,” said Sean Cunningham, CEO of the VAB, in a statement. With less trust in Nielsen’s tracking, it’s hard to accurately assess just how much TV viewership decreased.

What does it mean when the top TV ratings firm isn’t held accountable with accreditation? Nielsen will still release ratings—which will still be considered by the TV industry— but perhaps with a grain of salt. How big will that grain of salt be? Time will tell. 

MediaRadar Insights

Last year, news and entertainment programming held steady compared to 2019. This year, we’re seeing that it’s up slightly over 2020, $3.44 billion in 2021 vs $3.4 billion in 2020 (January – July).

As kids stayed home, parents were buying more puzzles, activities and toys. We saw this sector grow 101% between February and March 2020. Now, it’s slowing down. Kids entertainment is down 27% YoY (January – July). 2020 saw $238.2 million across 21 networks, where 2021 advertising spend is at $174.5 million across 19 networks.

Sports programming—which took a nosedive with the cancellation of events— is now up 67% YoY. This is largely due to the Summer Olympics, which accounts for $1.15 billion of advertising spend in 2021.

Without the Olympics, sports advertising would be up 38% YoY. 2020 saw $3.93 billion across 30 networks, where 2021 increased that ad spend to $5.43 billion across 31 networks.

Viewership data is becoming harder to access across screens, streaming platforms and paid TV. But using MediaRadar, ad sales reps can easily see which categories and brands are spending most and across which formats. For more information, reach out to us or try a free demo. 

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