“Staying in” with Your Customers: Media Consumption on the Rise

03.25.2020 Sara Brasfield

Faced with unprecedented events, everyone is spending a considerable amount of time indoors and hunkering down at home. This shift has caused major disruption for usual routines, shopping patterns and other elements of daily life. This new normal, however, is also increasing TV viewing and screen time, driving more streaming of video ads, mobile display ads, and social media ads, to name just a few channels. Here’s what’s happening with media consumption habits – and how your business can meet consumers where they are (especially when they’re not “going” anywhere).


Of course, it only makes sense that media consumption would increase – with less options for entertainment, more time will be spent using media to stay informed and connected with our communities. Estimates are there’ll be a minimum of a 60% increase in viewing content, with Nielsen reporting that Americans are already spending close to 12 hours a day with media platforms. That’s significant. And history supports these facts, too – it’s been proven in both snowstorms and hurricanes that people spend their time consuming media and staying informed of the  situation. For example, in 2017, Hurricane Harvey in Houston had a 56% increase in TV usage. A 2016 New York snowstorm had a 45% increase.

To put that in current terms, overall TV viewership and ad-supported cable network TV has increased steadily throughout mid-March. Starting March 9, audience levels are increasing daily, with an average gain of more than 14% versus the previous week. On what would have been the opening weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, TV scored a 10% lift in average weekend viewers, compared to the corresponding weekend in March 2019. In a time without live sports, it is comforting to know audiences are still tuning in.

Source:  Cox Media analysis of Nielsen national audience data via NPOWER; Total US; Live+SD; M-Su 6a-3a; Persons 2+; contact  Cox Media for details. Scale adjusted to highlight change; 2019 figures reflect corresponding Week and Day based on standard advertising calendar, not exact calendar date

Recently, in South Korea, there was a 17% increase in TV viewing, an increase in 1.2 million viewers, compared to a 1% increase in 2019. In the Lombardy region of Italy, the area most-affected by current events, there was a 12% increase in TV viewing.


As more companies are enacting and/or encouraging employees to work remotely, it translates into even greater media usage.  Nielsen Data shows employees who work remotely watch over three hours more each week of traditional TV than non-remote workers. In terms of devices, remote employees also spend more time each week on their tablets than non-remote employees. And with many schools instituting remote or online learning, younger viewership may increase as well.


As of March 25, Nielsen has found that while Cable and Broadcast are attracting more viewers, ad-supported Cable is dominating weekend viewing, attracting 7 out of 10 ad-supported viewers on Saturdays and Sundays. Through Sunday March 22, ad-supported Cable had seen 12 consecutive days of growth vs. the prior week.

During Hurricane Harvey in 2017, consumers turned to feature films, news and general format programming. A 61% increase in streaming via TV was also reported. More of this is expected in the current media climate, with numbers likely to be much higher as streaming and consumer adoption have skyrocketed even more in the years since. 

With consumers reporting that recent events have influenced their decision to sign up for a streaming service (one in every five!), and nearly half of US adults saying they are now more likely to stream movies and TV than they were before, streaming services like Sling, Pluto TV, Roku and even Amazon are having to quickly adapt to the rapidly changing landscape. 

Related: Advertising on Streaming Services: How to Reach the “Cord-Cutters”


In short – more people are spending more time with more media, which means there is an opportunity for your brand and your ads to connect with a greater number of current and potential customers than before. This is true for traditional Cable TV, TV Everywhere (TVE) and streaming services, social media advertising, and more.

While your advertising may not feel like a top priority right now, letting your strategy fall off the list completely could have negative long-term effects on your business. It’s understandable – and expected – to feel a little anxious about advertising your business during times of uncertainty, however this increase in media consumption presents an opportunity to build brand awareness and can strengthen your relationships with customers, many of whom are affected by recent events as well. With fully-engaged consumers, increased TV and overall screen time, the time to reach them through advertising is now.

Related: How to Support and Grow Lasting Customer Relationships During Times of Uncertainty

Consistency is key, and it’s imperative you engage with your target audience and maintain strong relationships with them during this time. Your efforts now can help your business bounce back faster when life returns to normal. And, you don’t have to do it alone. Cox Media is here to assist as you navigate what’s best for your business and to provide guidance with your changing media needs during this turbulent time.

Nielsen Insights “Staying PUT: Consumers Forced Indoors During Crisis Spend More Time On Media” 3/16/20

Cox Media analysis of Nielsen national audience data via NPOWER; Total US; Live+SD; M-Su 6a-3a; Persons 2+; contact Cox Media for details.

About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is a Marketing Manager on Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than nine years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the office, Sara loves spending time running, reading, and supporting her favorite sports teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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