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Kids and Teens Drive Daytime TV Viewing and Streaming Increases During COVID-19

4 minute read | April 2020

Today’s parents are ‘rediscovering,’ likely out of necessity, what their parents and grandparents always knew. TV makes a pretty good babysitter for homebound kids. Now several weeks into the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown in the U.S., a clearer picture is emerging around how “shelter-in-place” orders are affecting the daily lives of American families in local cities across the country—specifically as it relates to their TV appetite, according to a new Nielsen study.

With social distancing now in full effect, families have found themselves with a lot more together time. Working parents are juggling housework, homework and childcare, and with remote work demands also a major issue, some are escaping to their bedrooms and basements to talk business. Meanwhile, kids are longing for distraction and camaraderie and some sense of ‘normalcy,’ as they adjust to lonely weekdays with only virtual teachers and friends. With full houses in cities across the country, stressed parents are relying more than ever on their TV sets for relief, and kids are depending on it for entertainment, news and educational programs.

With most governments officially shutting down in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus, Nielsen analyzed TV data across the top 25 LPM+PPM (top 25 markets measured by local people meters and portable people meters) markets following the statewide orders, and compared with total TV usage (PUT+All Usage on TV Connected Devices) from an equivalent period last year. While it’s no surprise that viewing is up across the total population, things get interesting when breaking down by age group and hour of day. By far, increases in viewing among kids 6-11 and teens 12-17 blew past the rest, particularly during daytime hours. Year-over-year percent increases for these demographics dwarfed those of all other age groups, hitting over 300% gains at mid-day (12 p.m.). 

The extraordinary increases are warranted, given that the majority of these children were physically attending school during the same period last year. And while most adults were also outside the home in offices and other places of employment, their increases in TV viewing have not risen to the heights of their offspring. The lesser increases suggest that parents are balancing indoor time with remote work and other activities (household chores, etc.) while their children cuddle up on the couch. 

Daytime increases also highlight a big boost in streaming and video game console usage 

No matter whether kid, teen or adult—daytime TV usage is up every which-way. Consumers are watching more of everything, including content via TV-connected devices. Streaming (internet connected device use) and video game console usage is up, right alongside broadcast and cable viewing. While the magnitude of the percent increases differs by age, the data shows that kids 6-11 are outpacing all other demos for streaming gains, while teens 12-17 give the biggest boost to broadcast TV. 

Kids viewing explodes in Northeast markets

On the surface, the inflation of daytime viewing among kids and teens makes sense. However, a deeper dive proves the importance of local market data. Nielsen’s LPM ratings reveal certain areas of the country with drastically greater gains among school-age children. Cities in the Northeast jumped most, particularly Washington, D.C., Boston and Baltimore. Daytime ratings in Washington, D.C., for example, ballooned over 550% for kids 6-11 and over 400% for teens. When ranking markets based on ratings for both periods, D.C. climbed from No. 23 for kids 6-11 all the way up to No. 1. Philadelphia saw strong increases among kids 6-11, while New York had bigger increases for teens. Central markets like Dallas and Houston also saw impressive jumps, while gains in West Coast markets were more modest (though still substantial).

Daytime viewing increases haven’t been limited to kids and teens. The key advertiser demo (P25-54) also drove notable gains, suggesting that some working parents are co-viewing with their kids throughout the day. And of course, those without kids are watching more TV, too. Across LPM markets, New York sticks out as the biggest winner for P25-54 increases, jumping 19 spots to No. 3. Philadelphia, Dallas and Chicago also climbed the list, with each of them increasing their rank 9 spots.

Regardless of age, parental status or location, people everywhere are turning on their TV sets more during the day to help them get through the crisis. Whether it’s news, daytime talk shows or kids programs—content of all kinds is reaching more people in hugely significant ways that simply didn’t exist before the lockdowns. This scenario presents unique opportunities for consumers and what they choose to view and for advertisers to reach this captive audience in new and compelling ways.

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