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Dashing to the Shows: Holiday-Themed TV Programming Reaches Ample Viewers

3 minute read | November 2014

For anyone who isn’t feeling the holiday spirit yet, getting into the swing of things could be as simple as turning on the TV, according to a new Nielsen survey.

In fact, the survey noted that more than 41% of respondents said they get into that holiday spirit by seeing holiday-themed movies, and nearly 62% say they plan to watch annual holiday programming on the tube this year.

However, men seem more likely to take more of a bah-humbug approach to getting merry by watching TV: 34% of men said holiday-themed movies put them in the holiday spirit, compared with 48% of women.

And viewers have every opportunity to watch holiday-themed movies—as well as other festive content—on traditional television.

A separate recent study looked at the reach of last year’s holiday-themed English- and Spanish-language television programming and found that audiences do follow through with their viewing intentions. Between Thanksgiving and year-end 2013, about 84% of adult women (18+) tuned in to at least one minute of holiday-themed prime time programming, versus 79% of adult men (18+).

Among all U.S. homes, the study found that more than 90% tuned in to at least one minute of holiday prime time programming last year between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.

And there’s certainly no shortage of options to choose from: holiday-themed programs, movies, specials and episodes of regularly scheduled shows accounted for more than 875 hours of programming over both English- and Spanish-language broadcast and cable networks. A total of 658 holiday-themed telecasts aired across broadcast and cable last year and included not just the annual holiday movies and specials, but all programming that had a holiday-themed keyword in the program, telecast or episode name.  

That’s more than a month of programming inventory for retailers and marketers to connect with audiences and pitch products they hope will make consumers’ holiday shopping lists!

U.S. Holiday TV Programming Reach (2013)

Demographic Percent of
Homes/People Reached
Average Amount of
Homes/People Reached (000)
Household 91.2 105,563
Persons 2 – 99 81.1 239,005
Persons 2 – 17 79.1 50,628
Persons 12 – 17 76.6 18,860
Persons 18 – 34 69.9 47,252
Persons 35 – 54 84 68,047
Persons 55 – 99 89.1 73,064
Persons 18 – 49 75.9 96,410
Persons 18 – 99 81.7 188,376
Source: Nielsen, NPOWER; one-minute qualifier.
Note: Based on methodology provided below.


Holiday reach programming data 2013 includes all prime time programming from the U.S.-observed Thanksgiving until the end of the calendar year. Holiday-themed programming was pulled using a specific list of common or often-used holiday words and phrases and included both English language and Spanish Language holiday words and phrases. This search was conducted utilizing the Nielsen Galaxy keyword search function over both EL and SL broadcast and cable networks and contained a list of common Holiday-keywords in both English and Spanish languages. Holiday-themed programming using these keywords was then matched to program, telecast or episode titles for regularly-scheduled shows and specials, and the reach for all these holiday-themed programs was produced in NPOWER.  Households and persons would qualify for the reach if they tuned into any minute across the 658 telecasts that aired from Thanksgiving through the end of 2013.  

Survey data insights were culled from two (2) individual English-language online surveys. Holiday movie insights were from an online English-language survey of 1,143 respondents from a general population sample of those aged 18 years old or older. Holiday television insights were from an online English-language survey of nearly 600 respondents from a general population sample of those aged 18 years old or older.

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