In the last few weeks, the UK has seen a relaxation of lockdown rules with schools reopening and groups of six now permitted outdoors. In England, single adults living alone – or single parents with children under 18 – can form a “support bubble” with one other household. With this, we are starting to see a return, of sorts, to normality.

Within this edition, we’ll visit what this return looks like for the different media channels.

Black Lives Matter

The headlines over the past two weeks have been dominated by two topics: the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and the death of George Floyd.  The reaction to the death of George Floyd has highlighted the depth of racism, be it structural or individual, that still confronts Black people across the world.

In the UK, media channels have responded in several ways. Where consumers are seeking information on Black Lives Matter, audio assistants such as Alexa have been updated to answer questions and point people to websites. SkyQ now has a tile on the front page of the home screen for Black Lives Matter with shows related to Black injustice from Spotify, Sky, C4 and the BBC, with the purpose to educate viewers. Sky has also announced plans for a new documentary titled Eight Minutes and 46 seconds; the killing of George Floyd that will run on Monday 15 June simultaneously across Sky Documentaries, Sky One, Sky Witness and Sky Atlantic. 

We‘ve seen media channels show their solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. OOH has donated messages of hope and support across their digital formats. There are also in-game messages within Call of Duty showing the Black Lives Matter messaging on the loading screen and on tiles within the game. Meanwhile, Netflix, iPlayer and have removed offensive material and seen their talent apologise for previous work including Keith Lemon, Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelley, David Walliams and Matt Lucas.

Media channels have a huge responsibility. Recognising this, Chief Executives at some of the UK’s biggest advertising agencies, platforms and trade bodies — including WPP, Facebook, ITV and the IPA — have pledged to tackle the “systemic inequality” within the industry and support Black talent.

TV & VOD – Return of the Premier League is made free for all

Sports and football fans across the world were overjoyed when finally, after months of meetings and deliberation, the news of the Premier League restart hit the headlines and confirmed to kick off on Wednesday 17 June.

The first game to be played, whilst not the most prolific of meetings (apologies any Aston Villa and Sheffield United fans out there), will almost certainly bring in fans of all live sport, eager to see how players, broadcasters, commentators and fans deal with games without a live stadium audience. Of the remaining 92 Premier League fixtures left to play, it will be no surprise that Sky’s dominance of broadcast rights will see them air 64 live games.

However, perhaps the biggest and most exciting bit of news to be revealed was that some games will be broadcast on free-to-air channels, including Sky Pick (which will air 25 games) and even the BBC which is set to host four games – the first time since the Premier League’s inception in 1992.

All the remaining Premier League games will be available to watch live across Sky, BT Sport, the BBC and Amazon across all TV and video platforms.

Radio – talkSPORT can return to talking about sport

The return of the Premier League will have a big effect on audio, especially talkSPORT – the world’s biggest sports radio station.

During the lockdown, we have seen increases in daily reach and hours listened across all stations, including talkSPORT. But with the absence of live sport, talkSPORT have filled their shows with celebrity interviews, debates about how sport will return after COVID-19 and archive footage.

Between the Wednesday 17 June and Thursday 2 July, talkSPORT will be delivering 25 live commentaries across the Premier League, Championship and FA Cup, as well as reporting on every fixture around the grounds. This is great news for consumers but also means that talkSPORT can reactivate their bookmakers’ sponsorships which have been paused since the start of lockdown and make up 15% of talkSPORT’s yearly revenues.

Cinema – A return to the movie house is within sight

Cineworld, one of the UK’s biggest cinema chains, said it plans to reopen in July as the UK’s entertainment sector gets back on track following the lockdown.

The company said it anticipates government restrictions related to cinemas to be lifted in early summer, allowing it to reopen to the public. But this will be subject to them putting in place procedures to ensure a safe and enjoyable cinema experience for its employees and customers.

It is still unknown what restrictions we’ll have in the UK, but if it mirrors Germany, there will be disinfectant sprays handed out on arrival and the wearing of face masks will be obligatory up until the point you are at your seat.

However, its a different story for independent cinemas. The Independent Cinema Office (ICO) poll found 72% of independent cinemas saw autumn as the earliest likely date to return to business, while others said they may wait for social distancing to end. The survey also showed that 41% of respondents did not think they would be able to reopen with social distancing measures, either because of the design of their building or the reduction in income limited audiences would bring.

OOH – The return of retail will supercharge footfall

Monday 15 June will see the re-opening of many non-essential retailers in England and more specifically, malls, larger shopping centres and the High Street.

This environment has been a key driver for OOH and although audience footfalls will take time to fully return (cinemas and food outlets will still be closed), the comparable signs from other European cities is that we are all keen to get back to ‘shopping in person’ as lockdown eases. For brands, a ‘physical’ retail shop front will hopefully provide the confidence to invest media and influence consumers no longer confined to their homes.

Westfield will reopen its doors on Monday 15th June and is hoping to mirror centre numbers in Germany, Netherlands and Austria where footfalls have already recovered to 60%-80% of YoY figures within four weeks. In France, this is, even more, telling where a number of their regional centres have only been open for two weeks and are already back above 60%. In addition, spend levels are very positive with high conversion rates – if people are coming into the malls, they’re coming to shop and spend not just browse!

With the ability to easily regulate footfall numbers, UK malls expect to offer a clean and controlled sense of escapism for an audience who have been deprived of extensive social activities.

They will take confidence that many recent research studies, including data from Kantar, has shown that shopping has remained one of the most desired activities for people after the lockdown restrictions are lifted. Many MOs with a presence in this environment are looking at opportunities to tap into this optimism across the rest of June.

News brands – Return of sport will aid circulation

Sport promises to be the focus of increased engagement for news brands in the coming weeks.

Publishers have already ramped up the volume of content around racing in early June in line with the return of horse racing, with Royal Ascot set to be a key focus next week. Next week will also see the return of football supplements across the market. This focus is likely to support print publishers in getting closer to returning to their pre-coronavirus print circulations.

In terms of digital content consumption, The Guardian is reporting a significant shift away from COVID-19 related news. It accounted for a third of page views in w/c 1 June, the lowest since early March.

Sport content forms a key part of that shift. In the same week, horse racing related content has increased by 47% for UK publishers versus w/c 13 March (Teads). We can expect football content to follow an even steeper trajectory.

In Japan, as a major national sport, soccer content consumption increased +95% in the 3-4 weeks after lockdown vs. the first week of lockdown. From a UK regional perspective, The Liverpool Echo are planning a celebratory supplement for the moment that the Premier League winner is decided.

Ecommerce – Online sales expected to remain high

As retailers in England get ready to re-open their doors, we should expect a phased approach as they adjust to social distancing restrictions.

For example, John Lewis is initially opening two department stores with a further 11 to follow on Thursday 18 June. This will, of course, impact customers’ behaviour by increasing research online to prevent long queues for changing rooms and cut down browsing time caused by ‘one-way’ routes store layouts. This re-opening will further impact e-commerce by increasing order pickup and return points driving online sales.

Lastly, a customer survey finds that bricks and mortar shoppers will want their experience to be very different from how it was pre-lockdown, with online booking of access to stores and changing rooms prioritised new features.

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