Kids and Teens Drive Daytime TV Viewing and Streaming Increases During COVID-19


Today’s parents are ‘rediscovering,’ likely out of necessity, what their parents and grandparents always knew: TV makes a pretty good babysitter for homebound kids.

Several weeks into the COVID-19 shutdown in the U.S., a clearer picture is emerging around how “shelter-in-place” orders are affecting the daily lives of American families in local cities across the country—specifically as it relates to their TV appetite.

A just-released Nielsen study has much to share on the subject.

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With full houses in cities across the country, stressed parents are relying more than ever on their TV sets for relief, and kids are depending on it for entertainment, news and educational programs.

With most governments officially shutting down in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus, Nielsen analyzed TV data across the top 25 LPM+PPM (top 25 markets measured by local people meters and portable people meters) markets following the statewide orders, and compared with total TV usage (PUT+All Usage on TV Connected Devices) from an equivalent period last year.

“While it’s no surprise that viewing is up across the total population, things get interesting when breaking down by age group and hour of day,” Nielsen notes. “By far, increases in viewing among kids 6-11 and teens 12-17 blew past the rest, particularly during daytime hours. Year-over-year percent increases for these demographics dwarfed those of all other age groups, hitting over 300% gains at midday (12pm).

“The extraordinary increases are warranted, given that the majority of these children were physically attending school during the same period last year,” Nielsen says.

While most adults were also outside the home in offices and other places of employment, their increases in TV viewing have not risen to the heights of their offspring.

“The lesser increases suggest that parents are balancing indoor time with remote work and other activities (household chores, etc.) while their children cuddle up on the couch,” Nielsen concludes.

While the magnitude of the percent increases differs by age, the data shows that kids 6-11 are outpacing all other demos for streaming gains, while teens 12-17 give the biggest boost to broadcast TV.

Nielsen’s LPM ratings reveal certain areas of the country saw drastically greater gains among school-age children, likely due to the severity of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place rules and the pandemic’s wrath on the metropolitan area.

To little surprise, cities in the Northeast jumped most, particularly Washington, D.C., Boston and Baltimore.

Daytime ratings in Washington, D.C. ballooned over 550% for kids 6-11 and over 400% for teens. When ranking markets based on ratings for both periods, D.C. climbed from No. 23 for kids 6-11 all the way up to No. 1. Philadelphia saw strong increases among kids 6-11, while New York had bigger increases for teens.

Still, Nielsen says Central markets like Dallas and Houston also saw impressive jumps; gains in West Coast markets were more modest though still substantial.

Scheduled and non-scheduled school recess and lack of online classroom instruction may play a role in the variations, as well as weather.