Consumers watched 61% more streaming on television – part of huge jump in total TV usage – during two previous crises that kept people housebound, just like coronavirus fears are doing now, according to a new study by Nielsen.
The agency Monday provided some data to back up what seems self-evident: that TV will be a major beneficiary of the current crisis. It’s a big reason why Netflix stock has help up relatively better than others in the media space as the market collapsed in recent weeks.
As widespread anxiety, social distancing and – increasingly – quarantines, lock-downs and curfews caused by coronavirus fears push people home, they turn to television to stay informed and entertained and use social media to stay in touch. It’s happening in real time, Nielsen says, and is boosting historically high media consumption in the country.
Americans were already spending just shy of 12 hours each day with media platforms and three-fourths of U.S. consumers have streaming subscriptions and TV-connected devices, the agency said.
Nielsen’s report analyzed total TV usage (TUT) data during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017 and a massive winter snowstorm in January 2016. During Hurricane Harvey, in Houston, Nielsen found a 56% jump in TUT compared with the period before the storm. Total usage ended up being 40% higher than the period following the storm.
In the “snowpocalypse” event, TUT rose 45% from one Saturday to the next and was 49% higher than usage after it was over.
Looking specifically at the coronavirus, Nielsen gathered stats from abroad, comparing TV usage levels in South Korea from the second week of February to the fourth week when there was a surge in the virus. The analysis noted a 17% increase in TV viewing – an jump of approximately 1.2 million viewers. During that same interval in 2019, it was just 1% higher.
In Italy, Nielsen said, during the last week of February, compared to the previous week, there was a 6.5% increase in TV viewing and almost 12% more in the Lombardy region of the country, which was the hardest hit area.
Nielsen also said its data suggests that employees who work remotely during a typical workweek “connect” with traditional TV three hours more each week than non-remote workers – or about 25 hours versus 22 hours. As COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S. and more companies enact work at home policies, that could drive even greater media usage.
With the coronavirus a truly global phenomenon, consumers around the world are using social media more in tandem with television. According to Nielsen’s Social Content Ratings data, a snapshot from January through February 2020 showed that at its peak the social conversation mentioning either “coronavirus” or “COVID-19,” there were 110,000 TV-related Tweets mentioning these two keywords.