More TV viewers during quarantine as networks shift to ‘thoughtful programming’

Television has gained an additional 3.8 million viewers upon the onset of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, a global measurement and analytics company observed in its most recent research.

In its COVID-19 and the State of Media in the Philippines report, Nielsen noted a significant upsurge in TV viewing throughout the day, with the bulk of viewers watching at night time.

The report also noted the emergence of a new “prime” time as the pre-noon timeslot (10 am to 12 noon) garners the highest growth in ratings with a viewing bump of 60%.

Ernestine Amper, executive director of Nielsen Media in the Philippines, attributed such an increase to “forced confinement coupled with concerns on the rapid increase in the number of cases in the country”, adding that the same could be said of increased consumption of online media.

“In these times of uncertainty, Filipinos want to get as much information as they can about COVID-19 and its impact to 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,” Ms. Amper said in a statement.

While tuning in to TV for information is a given, as nearly 90% of Filipinos are found to have access to television, the Nielsen report noted that viewers are actively searching for COVID-19 content and are engaging in online conversations about this topic.

COVID-19 and other related keywords are trending mainstays in social media sites like Twitter and even Google Trends.

Increased viewing among AB class
Furthermore, Nielsen’s report revealed that among Filipino TV viewers, the A & B classes are watching more, spending an additional hour over their usual 6-hour TV screen time

From an average of 6.4 hours during the pre-COVID-19 period (which the report dated January to March 7), the said class is spending 7.4 hours on TV during COVID-19 (March 8 to April 15).

In terms of occupation, the report added, office workers who are currently working from home spend more time watching TV.

Professionals have the highest increase to their viewing (1.1 hours), making their average time spent to 5.2 hours.

The manual workforce, on the other hand, which includes laborers and farmers or those who follow a no-work/no-pay policy, posted minimal growth in terms of TV viewing duration, with 0.2 to 0.5 additional time.

‘Thoughtful programming’ showing up
In observing the current media landscape, Nielsen found that aside from ramping up the volume of news content, broadcasters are presenting a lineup of shows that espouse the idea of ‘thoughtful programming’.

Major networks re-aired hit drama series on primetime that presented a common theme of ‘hope’ and a strong sense of ‘community’, Ms. Amper observed.

Moreover, with classes canceled, she also noted that networks are replaying classic educational programs catered to students.

“We’ve noted that local broadcasters acknowledge their influence and responsibility amid this pandemic — knowing their strength to entertain and inform, they have curated a lineup of programs with the purpose of uplifting the viewing public,” the executive director said.

“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.”

Key advertisers ‘still on the frontline’
Findings in advertising were also gathered in Nielsen’s report. Compared to the same period last year, their research found out that TV and radio ad spend softened in the first quarter of the year (Q1) with a more pronounced dip during the height of the pandemic for TV at -26%.

The share of investment, nonetheless, is still led by TV at 74% in the same quarter versus the same period last year.

The report also observed top advertisers continuing to advertise in spite of a drop in ad investment, with some—especially pharmaceutical advertisers—maximizing the heightened media consumption by spending more on TV ads.

Notably, the report found some key advertisers boosting their radio ad spending during the COVID-19 period (Mar 8-31, 2020 vs. previous year) as they lessened their TV budgets from last year.

As Nielsen expected, on-site businesses such as cinema, hotels, restaurants, and department store ads were found to have declined during the COVID-19 period, compared to last year.

Food product categories such as seasonings and canned goods, however, increased in ad investment.

Categories that are in high demand such as cough and cold remedies and vitamins, as well as sanitation products, were found to grow their spending for Q1 compared to last year.

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