Report: Sports TV Viewers Turn to News, Religion Programming During Pandemic

When the NCAA on March 17 canceled the men’s and women’s college basketball tournament, known as “March Madness,” sports viewers turned their attention to news, according to new data from 605, a television measurement and analytics company.

The report found that among viewers of college basketball, there was a 43% decrease in viewership of sports talk and documentary programs in 2020 from the same period in 2019. The same demo upped its consumption of news programming 32.3% compared to 2019.

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Notably, the news viewing increase was larger than the news viewership increase (30.6%) by the general public. Among 2019 “March Madness” viewers: 64.8% more households are watching CNN; 36.7% more are watching Fox News and 11.7% more are watching MSNBC.

Domestic household minutes spent viewing news increased 31.5% in March from the previous-year month. 605 said the data resulted in a 79% increase in households watching CNN; a 44% uptick for Fox News; and a 20.1% increase for MSNBC since February.

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“With more Americans staying home, there is an obvious expectation of increased TV viewership,”Noah Levine, chief revenue officer at 605, said in a statement.

As the number of households staying home grew, a similar increase in increase in religious programming viewership emerged — up 44.5% in the last week of March compared to the first week.

The reports that 4.56 million homes surveyed watched less than five minutes of religious programming in March 2019, with the genre now up 6.7% in 2020.

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