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Back to School doesn’t mean back to normal

It’s Back to School time and with it a return to “normality” for children’s media habits after, for many, almost 6 months ways from the classroom. But what represents normal in September 2020 and beyond?


Lockdown has presented an opportunity for the majority of media channels (with the obvious exceptions of Cinema and OOH) to proudly state how their usage has increased. Linear TV has been no different, however scratch beneath the surface and even under lockdown conditions it isn’t necessarily the pure picture of health being portrayed. Total commercial TV viewing for children (4-15) increased during Q2 by 5%, but the all-important children’s commercial channels still managed to endure a decline of 6% as a set. Shared viewing opportunities increased as more time was spent in front of the screen alongside parents (no school = later nights), whilst attention was drawn to other platforms which have greater appeal for a generation brought up in the age of On Demand. This point was emphasised by the latest Kids and the Screen study by Giraffe Insights, which demonstrated that in April both SVOD (Netflix and Disney+) and Online Video (YouTube) overtook Linear TV in share of viewing for the first time.

So what is the prognosis for Linear TV? Will the return to some form of routine with the return to school mean that children and parents fall back into the habit of tuning into traditional viewing more regularly?

The “shape” of viewing during lockdown looked very different to what we would ordinarily expect. The lack of a consistent national routine meant that early morning viewing suffered, whilst daytime viewing increased by up to 300% during some periods of the day (sorry fellow parents but the evidence says we weren’t all the most effective home-schoolers).

The return to schools, even in part, will be of the greatest benefit to Milkshake. During lockdown Milkshake bucked the trend of FTA stations enjoying growth where many pay TV channels suffered (Pop grew by over 50% to now account for the same SOV as the Turner and Disney portfolio combined – 21%). A more standardised return will return Milkshake to growth, and firmly establish it once again the top 3 commercial children’s channels despite it only being on air for a few hours each morning (such is the strength of the brand and the platform).

Looking beyond the immediate Back to School period however they are more far reaching consequences the market will have to contend with. From 1st October, Disney channels will no longer broadcast in the UK. So what happens to those commercial eyeballs? Sky Kids are best placed to benefit. Nickelodeon is in prime position to attract Disney Channel fans, whilst the plethora of pre-school channels within their portfolio will soak up Disney Jr fans. But there are no guarantees Disney’s audience will remain on Linear. The evidence suggests that this shift will only encourage more movement into YouTube and SVOD (or potentially the plethora of Connected TV services appearing). And for those “hardcore” Disney fans, Disney+ will be top of the agenda. In April, Disney+ already accounted for a quarter of all SVOD viewing and we predict further growth with the closure of the broadcast stations (likely supported by another round of heavy marketing investment).

All this means that whilst we can expect Sky Kids to grow their share beyond the 75% mark in the UK, this share will be off one of the smallest bases the UK has seen in recent history. Whilst this does pose further challenges for advertisers in this space as we approach the key season, we must not forget that Linear TV still provides a proven, safe and measurable advertising platform.

Similarly, with COVID-19 further accelerating the shift to On Demand viewing, it has never been more important to ensure that budgets diverted outside of Linear are supported by proven, safe and measurable approaches.

To find out more about the latest market dynamics and how we are navigating advertisers in this evolving AV space, please get in touch.


Source: MediaOcean/BARB/Giraffe Insights Kids and the Screen