Surprise Byproduct Of Pandemic: A Reprieve For Broadcast TV

As consumers begin shifting from an initial crisis phase to a more “normal” and sustained period of the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts are beginning to project some of the longer-term effects on media. After months in which many consumers were staying-at-home, there has been one surprising and unanticipated change in their media habits: a spike in use of linear broadcast TV.

“It’s consistent across different age groups,” says Virna Sekuj, strategic insights manager of market researcher Global Web Index, which previewed findings from its third extensive wave of pandemic research to the press late Tuesday and concluded it is contributing to “a revival of broadcast TV.”

The study, which sampled more than 15,000 consumers worldwide, including the U.S., found that 43% report they are watching more broadcast TV, including younger viewers and heavy online streamers that historically index extremely low for broadcast media.



While it might be difficult to project how sustained the use of broadcast TV will be as stay-at-home restrictions ease, the experience at least created new sampling opportunities for broadcast TV outlets.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the sampling occurred just as the official broadcast TV season is wrapping up, and networks head into rerun season with much of their new fall 2020 shows expected to be delayed due to pandemic disruptions.

Studio executives estimate as much as 60% of scripted series could be delayed because of the disruptions.

But in a another positive indicator for linear TV, albeit cable and satellite TV subscription services, new research from Civic Science indidates Americans have also “hit the pause button” on cutting the cord.

“After a steady increase in cord-cutting — that is, ditching traditional TV services for streaming platforms — in the U.S. throughout all of 2019, it seems that Americans are hitting the pause button,” the report reads, citing new research showing the percentage of Americans who are interested in cutting the cord has declined, while the percentage who are not interested has grown.

Meanwhile, the new Global Web Index data also reaffirms why consumers may be more prone toward conventional television post-pandemic, with some of the biggest increases in uses of media including more TV news, TV shows and other content (see chart at bottom).

5 comments about "Surprise Byproduct Of Pandemic: A Reprieve For Broadcast TV".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, May 20, 2020 at 7:59 a.m.

    A delayed sentence is not a reprieve.

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost, May 20, 2020 at 8:20 a.m.

    @Douglas Ferguson: Literally, the definition of reprieve:

    Learn to pronounce
    cancel or postpone the punishment of (someone, especially someone condemned to death).
    "under the new regime, prisoners under sentence of death were reprieved"
    grant a stay of execution to
    grant an amnesty to
    let off
    let off the hook
    a cancellation or postponement of a punishment.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, May 20, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.

    The likely result, after a proper vaccine is developed and things settle down, is that those who are still employed outside their homes---or going to school-----will do so--and their TV consumption will return to normal also. The interesting things to ponder concern the possibility that a significant percent of the former workforce may not find their old jobs waiting for them and there is a high probability that many of these now permanently unemployed folks will continue to watch daytime and early evening "linear TV" content---in effect, counteracting some of the overall loss in viewing time that has been developing for the last five or six years. Also, as the work-from-home movement expands, with many more persons engaged either full or part time, this, too, will stimulate TV usage. In both cases, I would expect "linear TV" and AVOD---which will include many transplanted "linear TV" shows---like local news---to gain viewing expsures---again compensating in large part for primetime losses to SVOD fare.

  4. James Smith from J. R. Smith Group, May 20, 2020 at 11:03 a.m.

    Joe's and Ed's points are certainly factors. Another possibility is more firms offering early retirement/buyout packages, resulting in a moderate increase of persons viewing in the 60+ cohort.  Do you think networks will be ordering more episodes as a buffer to the possibility of another production lockdown in the late fall, winter?

  5. Robert Rose from AIM Tell-A-Vision, May 20, 2020 at 12:55 p.m.

    Broadcast TV is having a moment. Sadly, the ad revenue is as well in the opposite direction. I do think the broadcast network news broadcast summaries will continue to appeal to people as they are increasingly turned off by partisan cable pundits. I know many folks who have discovered OTA broadcast TV for the 1st time in an effort to enhance their viewing choices and save money. The diginets are a nice surprise for first time in a long time broadcast TV viewers, however, if the broadcast community can only offer subpar or old re-run library product on these outlets then this too will wear thin quickly. It's time for broadcasters to fully embrace their multi-channel role and offer things that pay tv / cable can or will no longer offer their still shrinking audience base such as tired reality, pandering paranormal and for some perplexing reason, "All Alaska all the Time" programming strategies. Broadcasters have a window of pportunity to keep young viewers. Many underserved niches such as documentaries, travel, lifestyle, etc. Will they do answer the call? PS a re-run isn't precieved as a re-run if someone hasn't seen the 1st run. 

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