How Big Is the Stay-At-Home TV Spike? Significant, For Now


Adrian Burrows/NBC
NBC’s ‘Chicago Fire’ and ‘Chicago Med’ reached their biggest audiences in more than a year on March 18, with 9 million and 9.2 million viewers, respectively.


With the coronavirus pandemic keeping millions of people at home, TV use has spiked, with figures from Nielsen showing rises across all demographics. Kids and teenagers, home from school, are posting the largest percentage gains. Nightly usage levels, which typically tail off on Fridays and Saturdays, have been steadier on those days in recent weeks.

Traditional TV viewing, as measured by Nielsen’s households and persons using its television metric, was up 4 percent across all dayparts the week of March 9, with bigger increases during daytime hours given the larger share of the population staying home. The biggest gains came from young viewers who were at home rather than school: Kids ages 2 to 11 increased their TV use by 14 percent, and 12- to 17-year-olds watched 18 percent more.

Usage among adults, meanwhile, was up 5 percent overall. During the week of March 16, usage increased even more, says Peter Katsingris, senior vp audience insights at Nielsen: “We saw a 14 percent increase in Live TV usage from the prior week, a 35 percent increase in game console usage and a 28 percent increase in connected device usage among all U.S. consumers. This seems to indicate consumers are tuning to the TV, engaging with streaming platforms, ad-supported and not, and trying to pass the time inside as best they can.”

In primetime, the gains have lifted all types of shows, from ABC’s Modern Family to CBS’ Survivor to AMC’s The Walking Dead. Viewing levels night-to-night have also been more consistent in recent days than they usually are. NBC’s Chicago Fire and Chicago Med reached their biggest audiences in more than a year on March 18, with 9 million and 9.2 million viewers, respectively. The March 19 episode of Station 19 on ABC had its biggest audience ever with 7.5 million same day viewers.


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