StoryScout 2024

Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Coronavirus: Consumers Watch More Television. Networks can’t exploit the opportunity due to their lost capacity

Nielsen published a fascinating report yesterday concerning the increased media consumption of U.S. consumers during our Coronavirus shutdown.

The analysis is based on a study of Total Usage of Television (TUT) during two severe weather crises:

  • Hurricane Harvey in Houston (2017)
  • New York’s ‘Snow-pocalypse‘ (2016)


  • TUT usage in Houston was up 56% versus the period before the hurricane.
  • And 40% more than the period after the storm.


  • Comparing the Saturday of the New York snow event to the prior Saturday, TUT usage was 45% higher.
  • That same Saturday was also 49% higher than the Saturday following the blizzard.
  • The report also cites South Korean and Italian audience data during their recent Coronavirus shutdowns.
  • Viewing also popped for the Streamers like Netflix.
  • Read Nielsen’s brief report here.

Opportunity for Channels

  • As I wrote on Sunday, the shutdown appears to create an opportunity for the channels.
  • They will enjoy a ratings boost as consumers return to grazing the channel lineup, testing programs, and finding ones that they like.
  • Channels can use the spike in viewing to heavily promote their upcoming upcoming shows.

But Does It Matter?

  • However, a bigger audience doesn’t translate to increased ad revenues.
  • That’s because most spots are pre-sold based on forecast demo’s.

Nobody Home

  • The networks are more or less incapable of seizing this moment to launch creative solutions.
  • Their offices are shut. So are their commercial partners: the media buyers, advertisers, sponsors, ratings agencies, talent agents, and so on.
  • Their producers and talent are also grounded.
  • That wasn’t the case in most previous crises that I can remember, like 9/11 or the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, when it was more or less business as usual, and programming teams could deliver quick turnaround concepts in days or less.