Broadcast television has gone through some volatile changes this year. Although we saw a large increase in viewership in March and April, the numbers can be deceiving. And, when you compare that with the increases that are happening in Over-the-Top (OTT) TV and online streaming, the contrast is stark. (OTT TV is film or TV content available on the internet without requiring a typical subscription like cable or satellite.)
Looking at the data for broadcast television during the height of the pandemic, it appears that most growth happened in daytime viewing. There were actually losses to viewership in primetime and especially sports. Cable sports numbers were down, too.
In June, reports began to show a return to more normal levels, with overall broadcast television viewer numbers down only 1% from last year at that same time. This year, time spent viewing was up significantly, especially with news for adults and entertainment programs, especially for children. Those who are watching broadcast TV are now watching more of it.
Media consumption and engagement across all channels has increased significantly due to more sheltering at home, with more time being spent on consuming content than ever before. It’s just that now we are finding newer options to fill that need.
Where are the consumers? Studies are showing that people are increasing the amount of time they spend on social media, increasing consumption of online video, and increasing e-commerce spending. In fact, e-commerce is predicted to account for 50% of all retail sales in the next five years.
In advertising, traditional media like direct mail, outdoor, broadcast television and radio still account for about two-thirds of the total dollars spent. And while broadcast TV will see increases next year, digital options like OTT and streaming, which now have a much smaller piece of the pie, will see much more significant increases.
With all the uncertainty about what comes next, advertisers are not planning their campaigns out as far (2-3 months instead of the typical 5-6 months), and they are choosing more broad-reaching options, but shorter forms, like 15-second spots on broadcast and cable TV and 6-second pre-rolls on digital formats.
Another trend that may be gaining traction is putting local broadcasting on online platforms, like what Sinclair Broadcast Group is doing with STIRR TV. In a way, it is coming full circle back to local TV, which is where it all began.
Broadcast TV is still a strong option for program placement and advertising. Its influence appears to be fading more quickly than predicted because of all the disruptions this year, but it will still be around in some form for years to come.
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