The Impact of Reopening on Local TV Viewing
Spring has sprung, and serious quarantine fatigue is setting in as warmer weather takes hold across the country. Many states are well past the two-month mark of their respective stay at home orders, and people are itching for social stimuli beyond their four walls.
While some states with densely populated metro areas are taking longer to reopen in order to keep viral spread at bay, there are some states that have already loosened the reigns on orders, and others that never even imposed stay at home orders to begin with. In previous webinars and blogs, Comscore presented a detailed view on how the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing created a spike in video consumption and television viewing starting in mid-March 2020. As states now start to reopen in an effort to restart the economy and regain a sense of normalcy, how are the various stages of reopening impacting viewing levels?
To gauge the changes in TV viewing, we purposefully chose markets to represent three different stay at home levels - Orders in Place, Orders Lifted, and no orders, which we refer to as Order Nevers. These stay at home orders are generally placed at the state level and no compensations were made for any local or city differences. We used the below markets in each category:
- Orders in Place: Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles & New York
- Orders Lifted: Atlanta, Columbia, SC & Nashville
- Order Nevers: Des Moines & Sioux Falls
We looked at total day Sets in Use (SIU) levels across these TV markets and categories, which shows the percentage of TV sets in the market that are tuned to any linear TV station or channel across the week on a 24 hour average.
Not unexpectedly, all three categories experienced increased TV viewing levels beginning in March 2020, whether they were under stay at home orders or not, with peaks during the week of March 23, 2020. However, when all weekly Sets In Use (SIU) were compared to the week of February 10, 2020 in order to create a more apples to apples comparison, there are noticeable differences between these groups. Hot spots like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit had consistently higher viewing levels that experienced a slight drop-off from the peak week of March 23, 2020 and plateaued from the week of March 30, 2020 through the week of April 27, 2020. This seems to follow national viewing trends, albeit at a higher relative viewing level. Markets where orders were lifted also followed this pattern, but with lower relative viewing levels and declines starting during the week of April 20, 2020. Markets like Des Moines and Sioux Falls, where there were never orders in place, showed a much sharper and steadier decline in viewing levels, post-peak. While viewing levels across these categories are still higher than during the week of February 10, 2020, Order Never markets are almost back to the SIU levels seen in February 2020, making them the fastest group to do so, with the Orders Lifted markets being not too far behind. Markets with orders still in place continue to have the highest relative viewing levels compared to February 10, 2020.
When we look at the individual market viewing levels within each of these groups, the Order Nevers individual market trends are almost identical, showing steep declines following the week of March 23, 2020.
The Orders In Place markets follow a pattern of sharp increases from the weeks of March 2, 2020 through March 23, 2020. From the week of March 30, 2020 on, there are minor variations on the plateau of viewing levels, with New York and Detroit keeping a grasp on their peak viewing levels before dropping off during the week of April 27, 2020. Meanwhile, Chicago and Los Angeles each saw a dip following their first peak, before rising again and ultimately falling again during the week of April 27, 2020. Overall, Orders in Place markets’ SIU levels are still up between 13 percent and 15 percent compared to the week of February 10, 2020.
However, when looking at Orders Lifted markets like Columbia, SC, Atlanta and Nashville, there are some definite nuances to the viewing levels. Both Columbia, SC and Atlanta lifted their stay at home orders during the week of April 20, 2020 – Columbia on April 20th and Atlanta on April 24th, while Nashville reopened on April 27, 2020. Interestingly, both Columbia, SC and Nashville had lower relative peaks in viewing levels as compared to Atlanta, and they both also took steeper nosedives during the week of April 27th, with Columbia dropping 4 percentage points and Nashville dropping 9 percentage points. On the contrary, Atlanta continued to sustain higher viewing levels relative to the week of February 10, 2020 and while there has been a drop-off since the week of April 27th, the market still retains viewing levels that are 9 percent higher than during the pre-COVID times, while Nashville is almost back to normal viewing levels, and Columbia is not far behind.
While SIU levels are starting to trend downward, as we might expect due to seasonality, the markets we evaluated here are still at levels on average 14 percent higher than where they were at for each market last year. As we continue to evaluate viewing trends in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and stay at home orders, it will be important to keep an eye toward local markets. Even as states begin to lift orders, every place is different and anything from COVID-19 rates of infection to how the states are reopening can have a large impact on how media is consumed.