Our focus this week is to highlight some ‘unexpected things’ that we have seen happening with media consumption as a result of COVID-19. We examine emergent trends and see how media channels have adapted and evolved as an indicator of what the future of a post-Coronavirus media world might look like.

TV & VOD – evolving viewing habits and public made ads

Big studio shows still need that live TV audience for sheer spectacle – ITV’s Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway was innovative but not particularly well-received in the new ‘virtual’ format. While Love Island, originally scheduled for this Summer, has been shelved until 2021. Keeping the nation busy and entertained is certainly high on ITV’s agenda, exemplified by their challenge to the general public of recreating their favourite TV ads – simply using creative flair and home-video. The resultant medley of viewer-created content is scheduled to air in Britain’s Got Talent on Saturday 23rd May. 

Becoming closer as a nation, but also as family units, is also evident in how we are watching TV. The latest BARB viewing report shows co-viewing (i.e. more than one viewer to an individual TV set) has been on the rise with the most significant growth in those groups with four or more viewers at any given time, up 24% in the lockdown weeks.

VOD growth across the lockdown period has also been staggering. Unmatched BARB data indicates 75% growth YOY, with dramatic gains across each age group, and up 52% compared to the level reported across the first 11 weeks of 2020. In absolute terms, this increase (38-mins/person/day) was nearly as much as the increase in consolidated viewing (40-mins/person/day). Combined, this translates into a 34% YOY increase in TV set use.

However, breaking this viewing down by demographic, we can see how the increases in Linear TV vs Unmatched TV (viewing to the TV set of non-broadcaster content commonly used as a proxy for SVOD consumption) differ greatly:

  • Younger audiences watched more linear TV versus the equivalent weeks last year, but most of their additional TV time was allocated to unmatched activities (c. 80% for each group under 35)
  • Among 35-44s and 45-54s the increase has been much more balanced
  • Over-55s continued to rely very heavily on broadcast TV, which accounted for 83% of their additional TV time versus the same period last year

It seems likely that new norms are forming around working from home and socialising digitally. At home, people are more prepared to watch longer-form content and to use the largest screen available for the best possible viewing experience. The result could benefit TV through a continuation of these behaviours into the longer term.

Radio – increased reach and home concerts

As artists have not been able to perform live gigs at venues, some have taken to performing virtually and have partnered up with organisations to help raise money for the relief effort. Lady Gaga and the World Health Organisation came together to organise an 8-hour live-streamed concert called Global Citizen, One World: Together at Home which raised $127m.

Overall, since the lockdown, we have seen increases in daily reach across all radio networks – ranging from a 12% to 52% increase.

Cinema – Trolls, Rows and ‘Home Cinema’

It has been reported there has been a fall out between the cinema chain AMC (the owners of Odeon cinemas) and Universal Pictures over their release of Trolls World Tour to streaming services rather than being delayed until cinemas re-open. AMC said Universal had shown “zero concern” for cinema operators and was trying to “have its cake and eat it”. Trolls 2 has already taken over £100m, more than the first release did at the Cinema. It vowed to stop showing Universal films moving forward and were swiftly followed by Cineworld, the second-biggest chain. Vue was unexpectedly supportive of Universal.

Once open, cinemas will likely be physically unable to achieve pre-virus admissions levels for some time, so streaming will be a tempting option for film distributors hoping to maximise revenue for forthcoming releases.

Universal Pictures is owned by Comcast, the holding company of Sky.

OOH – Doing good, changing tact

With audiences massively reduced and environments closed, OOH has focused its efforts into being a ‘platform for good’.

Brands are now recognising the ability of OOH to drive additional PR for good causes, subsequently attracting new clients to the channel. The latest iteration has seen portraits of members of the public behind the windows of their homes holding up handmade signs of thanks to NHS workers being displayed on DOOH.

When can OOH reach a 100% TV audience? Well, PTI Smarter Venues have the opportunistic idea that when the Premiership Football/Rugby makes its return in June, behind closed doors, they will place branding over large areas of the empty stand seating for the remaining matches, to be viewed by an eager and large TV audience.

Social – Launches and ‘5-mins of fame’

As we all connect more by video, Facebook Live has seen a 210% growth in hours viewed year-on-year during the lockdown. They’ve also upped their gaming presence. The new app, originally due to launch in late 2020, is aimed at connecting users creating and watching live gaming, a sector currently dominated by Twitch and YouTube.

Facebook already has gaming opportunities available on its mobile app, where the games are monetised. This allows brands to place ads in between levels, or for ‘an extra life’ etc. Given that the newly launched app is ad-free, it’s rumoured that as market share increases, Facebook will look to monetise the platform and increase the opportunity for brands to reach the gamer market on a larger scale.

TikTok is undeniably the fad of the lockdown that few would have predicted. Its userbase increased by 50% to nearly 12 million unique users in the months between January to March and is still rising.

On average, the platform is reporting an increase of 10% in the number of minutes an average user is spending on the platform, around 8-hours for each user in March. The app setup means the algorithm searches for new clips rather than pushing already popular ones giving it a feel that everybody will get their chance for 5-mins of fame.

However, advertisers should approach with caution and it is important that we understand the brand safety risks. TikTok has made improvements, however, our most recent analysis (4th May) from the GroupM brand safety team still categorises TikTok as a high-risk supplier. All such risks have advertiser and campaign-specific considerations and we are obviously happy to share and discuss our POV on request. 

PPC – Impact yet to be fully felt?

Google owner Alphabet announced Q1 2020 revenue of $41.2 billion on Wednesday 6th May with search and other ad revenues making up 80%. This better than expected performance was a tale of two-halves, strong in January and February but “the decline in Search and other ads revenue was abrupt in March”.

Usage of search (and other Google products) rose as people looked for information on the coronavirus pandemic. In the US, at its peak, this was four times greater than during the Super Bowl. The challenge that Google currently face is that fewer brands are advertising on their platform. Not only are they not getting revenue from the advertisers that pulled out but those that continue advertising are likely to see lower CPCs as there is less competition within the auction. Google suggests that levels won’t return to pre-March levels anytime soon as they anticipate Q2 “will be a difficult one”. 

If you require any further information, please contact us on enquiries@wavemakernorth.co.uk.