Being under quarantine has led Filipinos to watch more TV as global measurement and analytics company Nielsen Media reported that television viewing has increased 27% since the quarantine started.

“Forced confinement coupled with concerns on the rapid increase in the number of cases in the country were key factors to why Filipinos tuned in more to media sources such as television and online media,” Ernestine Amper, executive director of Nielsen Media in the Philippines, said in a release.

“In these times of uncertainty, Filipinos want to get as much information as they can about COVID-19 and its impact [on] their lives, work, and community that is why it is not surprising that their need for COVID-19 information extends from on-screen to online,” she added.

In a recent State of the Media in the Philippines report, Nielsen noted that television has seen an increase of 3.8 million viewers in any given minute of the day compared to pre-COVID-19 pandemic numbers.

Nielsen’s report considered the period of January to March 7 as the pre-COVID-19 pandemic period and March 8 to April 15 as the COVID-19 period.

While the viewing trend remains largely the same in that a day has two prime times — one at noon and another at night — it has shifted a bit with morning shows garnering a viewing bump of 60% because more people are staying at home.

Viewing has also changed in terms of demographics as those at the top of the socio-economic ladder (A and B) are adding an hour of screen time from their usual six-hour TV screen time. Those in classes C to E have also seen an uptick in screentime hours, though at a more modest 30 minutes, on average.

Professionals who are working from home are spending an hour more watching TV (from 4.1 hours to 5.2 hours a day on average) while manual workforce including laborers and farmers have posted minimal increases: farmers and farm managers increased their TV viewing from 4.3 hours to 4.5 hours a day while laborers increased theirs from 4.3 to 4.8 hours a day.

It should be noted that television is not the only screen getting a surge of viewers as streaming service Netflix announced last week that they added 15.77 million new paid global subscribers, more than double what they predicted for the year as much of the world has employed similar lockdowns and quarantine procedures.

But what are they watching? Nielsen’s study reported that people largely want to learn about developments regarding the pandemic and that has led to networks ramping up their news content. There’s also a greater focus on “thoughtful programming” as “major networks re-aired hit drama series on primetime that presented a common theme of ‘hope’ and a strong sense of ‘community,’” said Ms. Amper.

Networks are also re-airing educational programs for students dealing with cancelled classes.

“Based on the ratings performance of these shows, it seems that broadcasters are well attuned to the type of content the Filipino audience needs at these trying times,” she explained.

The pandemic has led to a softening of TV and radio ad spending as year on year the first quarter spending declined by 5% for TV and 22% for radio. Despite the decline, TV still gets the lion’s share of advertisements at 74% in the first quarter of the year.

Pharmaceutical companies are said to be “maximizing the heightened media consumption” by spending more on TV ads during the COVID-19 period, according to the Nielsen report, while some advertisers are said to have boosted radio ad spending as they lessened their TV advertising budgets.

Ads from on-site businesses such as cinemas, hotels, restaurants, and department stores declined during the COVID-19 period while food products like seasonings and canned goods increased their ad investment alongside cough and cold remedies, sanitation products, and vitamins which increased their spending in the first quarter of the year.

“This pandemic is pushing the industry against the wall — it’s forcing us to abruptly shift our focus, [adopt] a different mindset, and experiment with new things. It is by experiencing all these that we are able to carry on and come out stronger post-pandemic,” said Ms. Amper. — ZBC