True Media Canada COVID-19 Media Impact, Part 1

Posted on April 9th, 2020 by True Media

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact consumer behaviour and thus, the media landscape. Many categories that are directly restricted by COVID-19, such as airlines, tourism and retail, are shifting or halting their advertising. Other categories continue to advertise while making changes to their messaging, ensuring it is both relevant and sensitive to the current environment (e.g. QSR focus on pick up, contactless delivery and retailers pivot to e-commerce ordering). 

Media owners have been responding in a very positive and flexible manner, despite taking a substantial hit on short term revenue. This is especially true for sports broadcasters, cinema, outdoor and transit media partners. 

We have also seen a number of gestures across the media industry that bring some positivity to this challenging time. We want to provide a “shout-out” to some of the Canadian media suppliers that have some fantastic initiatives: 

  •  Corus is providing free-view for all Canadians across their full stable of specialty channels 
  • Outfront Media launches the “We Get You Kids At Home” initiative, giving kids at home the chance to design their very own billboard; an uplifting move to provide an outlet for their art and positive emotional messages.

Television Viewing Already Showing Exponential Increases 

As expected, upon wide adoption of social-distancing measures, preliminary analysis shows that TV audiences have increased:

  •  Total TV viewing levels are up 13%-15% vs. the 6 weeks prior. Average Minute Audiences are up 5% over the week of March 9 and 6% over March 2nd; no small feat, as there have been virtually no live sports since March 11.
  •  Not surprisingly, news viewership is increasing: 
    • Audiences for Global National News are up 58% vs. 6 weeks prior, and Global News Hour/News @ 6 is up 53% vs. 6 weeks prior. 
    • CP24 had its most-watched day on March 16th, since at least a decade ago in 2010. 
    • Local News has also seen increases across the board as Canadians seek to understand the impact of COVID-19 in their communities. 
    • Given the economic implications, BNN Bloomberg has seen a surge in viewership by upwards of 80% overall. 
    • Viewing to Specialty News Networks has seen substantial increases, with viewing up over 100%. 
  • Kid/Family channels are also seeing a substantial increase since kids have remained at home. Week over week, YTV was up 138%, Treehouse +26%, Family +80%, Teletoon +35%, Cartoon +17%. 
  • People are looking for an escape. Nat Geo, Nat Geo Wild, and Love Nature are up 30%, 30%, and 276% respectively since the previous week. FX and FXX have increased 41% and 64% respectively, which includes a lot of comedies (Brooklyn Nine Nine, Sunny in Philadelphia, movies)
  • According to connected TV providers (note: data is US-based), streaming viewing time is up +46%, and time spent viewing overall is up +17% compared to Super Bowl weekend 

We believe that once news fatigue sets in, viewership will likely rise across multiple programs. 

Impact on Digital Audiences 

With nation-wide social distancing, we expect to see increased usage on digital platforms that allow us to connect with others (social media, messenger/video apps), gather information (news sites, searches), pass the time (gaming, music streaming, online shopping, online video consumption) and get the essentials (major retail sites). 

Various digital suppliers have taken action: 

  • News sites such as Globe & Mail have removed paywall barriers to access content (live video, articles) related to COVID. 
  • Social platforms are making efforts (and working closely together) to combat fraudulent information and act as a reliable resource by elevating authoritative COVID-19 content and updates. Many offer a COVID-19 specific section to their tool. 

What we’ve seen in Digital so far: 

  • Recent comScore data (US-based, but relevant) illustrates substantial increases to news and government website visitation. This trend also extended into retail and e-commerce, with the top retailers (Walmart, Amazon) having experienced the highest week of unique visitors in 2020 on March 9-15.
  • Music streaming consumption in the home (desktop/TVs/smart speakers) has begun to grow, while in-car consumption has seen a decline. When it comes to podcasts, users are focusing on self improvement (wellness, meditation) and entertainment content (comedy). 
  • The pause on live sports has opened the door to unconventional forms of programming. Globally, the audience at Twitch, which lets viewers see gamers compete via livestreams, has increased 10% in the past few days. Youtube Gaming is also up by 15%. 
  • With COVID-19 greatly impacting work and the economy, LinkedIn’s audience is posting more often which is leading to increased feed sessions. “Remote working” searches on LinkedIn Learning have tripled since January as employees and managers look for advice.

Impact on Out-of-Home 

Concrete audience data on out-of-home media exposure is not yet available. However, with the vast majority of Canadians practicing social distancing, which includes working from home and drastically reduced time spent outside of the home, the exposure to outdoor and transit advertising is a fraction of what it would be under normal circumstances. 

We will continue to monitor and report on the changing media landscape, consumer behaviour and sentiment to help us navigate successfully and with empathy and purpose through these unprecedented times.