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GM Thought of the Week: Schools Out… TV’s on?

At the time of writing, the United Kingdom is on the brink of European-style lockdown with national restrictions on movement. If parents haven’t taken their children out of school already, they would have been forced to from today, following school closure to all but key workers. With schools largely closed, what does this mean for children’s viewing habits and behaviours? Nielsen suggests UK housebound users could stream more than 60% more video during the coronavirus pandemic, but how does this compare to other EU countries that imposed school closures as much as two weeks ago? And what can we expect in the UK based on these findings?

Giving children more time on screens will be a matter of survival for many parents as they balance childcare, education and work all whilst being in the isolation of their own home. It’s no surprise therefore that viewing from children to the children’s commercial channels have seen significant week on week increases across Europe, where many countries have had imposed restrictions earlier than the UK.

Looking at four of our key territories across Europe, we have seen increases across the board during this period. These increases in viewing were no-where more prominently seen than in France. Here we have seen the average daily increase in kids viewing was +44% month on month.


Source: Various. Demographic based on Kids aged defined by each territory. Time periods vary dependent on when schools closed in that territory.

In fact, on the first day of national school closures in France, the daily increases in viewing were in excess of 100%!  We have observed increases across all of the dayparts except, and not surprisingly, the 0630-0730 where households are no doubt benefiting from an extra lay in each morning. The largest shift can be seen at lunchtime, indicative of parents providing some downtime using the TV set.

But are these increases much of a surprise? When we looking at the latest Google trend data , some of the largest searches across these markets over recent days include ‘things to do at home with children’, ‘keeping children entertained at home’ and ‘home-schooling advice’ (International Google Trends, 2020), as parents seek advice for providing a balance of entertainment while at home. It’s here, the TV set in many households plays an important role both in terms of traditional linear viewing, on demand viewing and a host of educational and interactive live streams delivered on the main device through You Tube.

The UK is now following a similar path to our European partners. Over the weekend, we have already seen a taste of what may be to come as ITV1 Prime Time hits such as Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, & The Voice achieved record breaking viewers (9.5m & 4.5m, respective average viewers from reported overnight BARB data) and a thirst for news updates from audiences causing a 5pm uplift in viewing for the Prime Ministers daily announcements. Whilst on the Children’s front, overnight data indicates that on the 22nd March, PAW Patrol on Milkshake! achieved a whopping 3.7 Kids 4-6 TVRs (89,000 Kids 4-6 Impacts), the highest reported single viewership for a Sunday’s broadcast in 2020 so far.

It is clear that content owners have the biggest opportunity to amplify their content in new ways and ultimately stay relevant. Broadcasts also have their part to play to ensure they are appease their new and growing audiences whilst also facing challenges for keeping audience based broadcasts on air. Looking to our European counterparts again we have seen Italy’s state broadcaster RAI react to the crisis by significantly increasing the quantity of content for children, in their efforts to continue to entertain and educate.

From an adverting perspective, opportunities also lie ahead to benefit from the increased viewing and mass coverage, however one must consider the path to purchase, which at the time of writing is largely restricted to the grocers and some online store distribution. It’s those brands that adapt their marketing strategies and explore the opportunities that will benefit from short term share of sales and long-term brand awareness. This is not more true in the Board Game category where retailers have seen sales surging as much as 63% YoY. In fact, in Italy and France, the term ‘boardgame’ is on track to reach Christmas peak season when it comes to online search!

Over the course of the isolation period Generation Media will be providing regular in-depth analysis on all of the points covered here, with a view to advise brands, content owners and broadcasters in making decisions that will ensure their businesses maximise on the opportunities this unprecedented situation presents us.

Stay home and stay safe.