Nielsen: Consumers Forced Indoors During Pandemic Spend More Time on Media

Regardless of whether you call it social distancing, quarantining or retreating to a safe place, heading home amid concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting media consumption habits, according to Nielsen.

The venerable ratings tracking company says staying sequestered in the home can lead to a 60% increase in the amount of content watched on television and portable devices. With consumers around the globe are already leaning into the growing array of content options and channels, a 60% increase is significant.

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Media consumption in the U.S. is already at historical highs. As reported in the most recent “Nielsen Total Audience” report, Americans are spending just shy of 12 hours each day with media platforms — with more than 75% of U.S. consumers utilizing streaming subscriptions and TV-connected devices.

During crisis events, such as a global pandemic, media users ramp up their media consumption to stay informed, kill time, find solace and stay in touch with others, according to Nielsen.

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Nielsen analyzed total TV usage data during two major crises in recent history: Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and a major snowstorm in January 2016. Not surprisingly, TV usage increased significantly during both occasions.

In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas. During the impacted period, a Nielsen found a 56% increase of TV use compared with the preceding period and 40% higher than the period following the storm.

While technology has fragmented the media landscape, it also has driven many companies to encourage remote telecommuting when possible. In doing so, these companies have been at the forefront of social distancing, as urged by the CDC, while at the same time, given them an ability to keep operating without much disruption in production continuity.

Nielsen data suggest that employees that work remotely during a typical Monday through Friday work schedule connect over three hours more each week with traditional TV than non-remote workers, 25 hours and 2 minutes to 21 hours and 56 minutes respectively.

In terms of devices, remote workers also spend a higher amount of time each week on their tablets — over four-and-a-half hours compared to the four hours for non-remote workers. Beyond viewing, remote workers also lean into listening. The reach of radio for remote workers compared to non-remote associates is nearly identical — both at just over 95%.

As COVID-19 continues to spread in the U.S. and more companies allow and enact policies for work to be done virtually, the viewing behavior for employees working in the confines of their own homes could drive even greater media usage.

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.


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