This is us: COVID crisis leads to a sharp increase in Canadian TV viewing

Canadians are watching an average of 25.7 hours of TV per week—a 12% increase over the same period last year—as they find themselves cooped up at home during the COVID crisis.

That’s according to new data from Canadian TV research body Thinktv, using Numeris PPM data for the week of  March 16—the first full week of the crisis in North America—compared with the week of March 18, 2019.

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According to Thinktv, the data also showed double-digit increases in the number of hours watched among both adults 25-54 (+11%) and adults 18-34 (+12%).

Not surprisingly in this new era of working from home, the increase in daytime viewing is most pronounced—with the average minute audience (AMA) among adults 25-54 for Canada jumping 26% over last year. The AMA for the 6-7 p.m. period is also up 23%, while prime time viewing is up 2%.

TV news has been one of the biggest “beneficiaries” of the crisis, with the report noting an 84% increase in AMA among adults 25-54 for the weekday news programs and a 122% increase for weekend news shows. The AMA for noon news programming is also up 37%, while audiences for late night news are up 40%.

News programming occupied three of the top 10 spots in Numeris’ weekly ranking of the top 30 shows for the week of March 16, with CTV Evening News the second most-watched show in the country (behind Survivor) with an average 2.1 million viewers 2+.

A U.S. report from Comscore earlier this week found that viewing of the country’s cable news networks increased 73% versus the comparable period in 2019, with particular increases in daytime and so-called early fringe (4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) viewing—102% and 82% respectively.

But viewers are also increasingly seeking respite from the daily deluge of COVID coverage, with supplementary research from Rogers Media noting that 23% of respondents in a national study are watching more comedy programming than usual, and 19% are watching more documentaries than before (two words: Tiger King).

The only day part that saw a decline in viewing was late night, which saw its AMA drop 4% in the absence of new episodes from late-night personalities like Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Trevor Noah, etc. They have returned with retooled shows in recent days, however, with the hosts broadcasting from home.

The audience increases are even more pronounced when the major sports networks TSN and Sportsnet—both of which have been forced to air historical games in the absence of any live sports programming— are removed.

With sports channels eliminated, the daytime AMA among adults 25-54 is up 34%, while the 6-7 p.m. hour is up 33%, prime time is up 16% and the 6-7 p.m. hour up 34%.

Specialty TV viewing (excluding sports) is also going up, with an AMA 12% greater than the corresponding year-earlier period among adults 25-54. Daytime viewing in particular is way up, 45%, over last year, while prime time is up 21%.

Viewing across all day parts is also up significantly among adults 18-34, increasing 14% on a year-over-year basis.


Chris Powell