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Lockdown = increased TV viewing…right?

Since the UK lockdown began, children’s media consumption has increased across most channels. So how has linear TV viewing fared, and how can this insight inform A/W 2020 strategies?


It’s a natural assumption to make. Children are in lockdown, and despite the best efforts of parents to create a home-schooling routine, TV time will inevitably increase.

On the surface, that assumption has held true. In the four weeks since the lockdown started (consolidated data available up until the 19th April), there was a 27% increase in children 4-9 commercial impacts compared to the four weeks prior (total TV). Looking at the kids commercial channels specifically however, the growth here has been limited to 15%, indicating an increased preference for co-viewing content (such as Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway). In fact, pre-lockdown the children’s channels accounted for 37% of commercial viewing. Since lockdown began, this has fallen to 30%.

Focusing on the children’s commercial channels, there have of course been some winners and losers within the dataset. The Girls 4-9 audience has shown the greatest increase in viewing at 22%, compared to 13% for Boys 4-9. This has been emphasised by the growth of Nickelodeon, which has cemented itself as a top 5 channel when ranked by share of commercial impacts (children 4-15).

It is Pop however which stands out as having enjoyed the most success throughout this period. It’s Free To Air advantage over most of its competitors has long held it as the number 1 commercial channel for children. However, since lockdown began Pop has seen its share increase from 14% to 22% (a growth rate of 50% period on period). And whilst we consider successes, spare also a thought for Milkshake. Still incredibly relevant for younger audiences, the channel has seen its share fall from 9% to 7% (a decline of 26% period on period) as the lockdown has seen the traditional breakfast spike in viewing move from 07:30 to 09:30.


So in the short term the assertion made at the start of this piece is correct. Lockdown has benefitted linear TV viewing. But what about a longer term view? Taking the same four week period, but comparing it to the same period in 2019, the results are not necessarily as favourable. Girls 4-9 viewing to commercial children’s channels has actually declined by -1% YoY. For Boys 4-9, this decline is -19% YoY. Do not forget however that we have just experienced one of the hottest April’s on record which would have had a detrimental effect on impacts.

However, in terms of time spent watching the TV in total, there have been some improvements YoY:


25th March – 21st April 2019 23rd March – 19th April 2020 YoY % change
Boys 4-9 08:00 08:33 7%
Girls 4-9 08:18 09:32 15%
Children 4-9 08:09 09:02 11%


This further emphasises the point that a significant growth is occurring when it comes to viewing content on other channels. Strategically this is relevant for children’s advertisers as we know from historical case studies that spots placed in co-viewing programming (e.g. The Simpsons or family films) elicit a much stronger search uplift online. Tactically, 2020 could also be the year when these types of spots become more affordable for advertises. The decline in advertising revenue created by the pandemic has been sizeable, meaning that media owners will be more inclined than ever to offer advantageous rates so that they will likely make up more of children’s advertising schedules than ever before. Especially when you consider this type of content is more likely than ever to fill channel’s schedules, given that they are having to cut back on filming for showpiece dramas and reality TV (how will we all cope without Love Island!).


Source: MediaOcean/BARB