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June 15, 2020

STREAMING IN THE TIME OF COVID

(with apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

I. Usage

In the last issue of Media Matters, we took a look at how the current epidemic affected TV usage and whether ad dollars followed the eyeballs. This time, we turn to streaming and the internet to see how the past few months have affected consumer usage. In this case, Comscore provides a useful picture of how consumers habits changed from to January early-May 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Here, Comscore’s in-home data usage is measured in gigabytes received by device. As can be seen, increases in year-over-year data usage rose in March, peaked in April, and showed a slight decrease in early-May, which is similar to findings for TV. No surprise that this coincides with the majority of the U.S. under stay-at-home orders in March and April, and the easing of such restrictions (in some areas) along with nicer weather, and general user fatigue by early-May.

When we look at the findings by device, expressed on an index basis, some interesting variables are seen.  Smart TVs, streaming boxes/sticks, and smartphones saw greater-than-average boosts in this period. For example, smartphone usage increased 69% more than the overall average in February (169 index), while smart TV usage was up 52% over the overall average in early-May. On the other hand, tablet usage gains were more modest, staying on par with the total findings for every time period measured. Notably, gaming consoles upticks came in much lower than average, and PC/Mac usage was actually lower than the previous year in January/February, but improved steadily afterwards, undoubtedly thanks to schooling at home.



Just what were consumers doing online at this time? A GWI survey of U.S. and U.K consumers published in its GWI Coronavirus Report March 2020, found that 68% of respondents used the internet for information about Covid-19 (no surprise there), while 58% used it to listen to music. Watching movies and funny videos also scored well, as did playing games on mobile devices. Only 5% of respondents said they were “trying to stay off the Internet,” but we suspect that such numbers increased as the lockdown wore on. We would also expect that there would be an uptick in educational searches as at-home learning kicked in in mid-March and was widely deployed by April.

When it comes to differences by sex, generation and income, the findings don’t really show any major changes over typical internet activity. Overall, men, Gen Z and Millennials, and upper income respondents reported a higher than average likelihood to do many of the activities specified, while women, Gen X and boomers, and lower income respondents came in below the norm.


As we all know from our own experiences, streaming/internet usage surged during the pandemic, as we turned to this source for news, information and entertainment. It is useful, however, to quantify this, as well as to see how consumption patterns mirror that of TV, and show a slight downward trajectory as the “new normal” sets in.

II. Ad Impressions

Per Innovid’s iQ Global Trends Infographic for May 31st-June 6th, global video volume rose 10% over the previous week. Taking a longer view, 4-week average compared to the same time period in 2019 revealed that global video impressions were up 3% overall. Strong gains in consumer packaged goods impressions (+60%) and in telecommunications (+49%) were offset by dramatic losses in automotive (-64%) and retail (-43%).

Innovid also presented findings on market variability by industry, by publisher and by device between April 12-June 6th. During this period, the number of retail, automotive and telecom impressions saw the greatest fluctuations, while consumer packaged goods impressions held steady. Total volatility was greatest between 4/12 and 5/30, but has flattened since the beginning of June.

Global video impressions by publisher saw wider variations in the same time period, with all formats (broadcast, programmatic, social and digital) showing ongoing swings. For the current week reported (5/31-6/6), broadcast was up 2%, programmatic down 2%, social up 5% and digital down 19%.

Weekly share of video impressions by device held fairly steady throughout this period. For the week of 5/31-6/6, mobile had a 43% weekly share of impressions, connected TV 39% and PCs 18%.

The takeaway? Even though usage is somewhat down, impressions are up. Although video impressions are only one component of digital advertising, they nevertheless provide a useful snapshot of how one sector fared during lockdown. Unlike with TV, it seems that some advertisers are more willing to follow these eyeballs.


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