Coronavirus Isolation Has Led to 8% Growth in TV Viewers – So Far

As the nation shuts down, Nielsen ratings go up

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The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on the U.S. economy, but it’s doing wonders for TV ratings.

Across this past Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the level of homes using television (HUT) jumped to an average of 93.275 million total viewers in prime time — an 8% increase over the average during the four previous weeks, according to Nielsen’s Live + Same Day measurement. That covers viewership of all linear TV networks, both broadcast and cable, but not streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime.

The timing here is no coincidence, as requests for self-quarantining to help flatten out the COVID-19 curve have given way to legal mandates in certain jurisdictions, now including all of California.

In other words, not only is there nothing to do but sit on your couch and watch TV now, it is practically the law.

Here is how HUT levels for Monday-Wednesday in primetime over the prior four weeks have looked, in terms of both overall viewers and the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic:

Week of Feb. 17, 2020: 87.309 million total viewers/a 19.8 rating among adults 18-49
Week of Feb. 24, 2020: 86.120 million total viewers/a 19.6 rating among adults 18-49
Week of March 2, 2020: 85.629 million total viewers/a 19.5 rating among adults 18-49
Week of March 9, 2020: 86.950 million total viewers/a 19.8 rating among adults 18-49

Those numbers average out to 86.502 million total viewers and a 19.7 rating in the key demo.

From Monday, March 16 through Wednesday, March 18, viewership jumped to 93.275 million, with 20.9 million coming from the key demo. That’s an increase of 6.773 million total viewers this week. In the demo, the increase was 6%, or 1.3 million viewers.

Even within our Monday to Wednesday window, as the virus continued spreading, viewership increased. On Wednesday, both the total viewer tally and the demo number jumped 9%. That growth, which is measured against the prior four Wednesday’s, is the largest to date.

At press time, we did not have final data for Thursday, March 19. But early Thursday numbers show a continuation of the trend, with a preliminary increase of that same 9% in both the 18-49 demo and in total viewers vs. the prior four Thursdays. (And that’s even without March Madness, which was canceled pretty early on, happening on CBS.)

Prime-time television is defined as Monday through Saturday from 8-11 p.m. (Fox and The CW do 8-10 p.m.) and Sunday from 7-11 p.m. (Fox participates from 7-10 p.m. those nights, The CW nationally programs 8-10 p.m.)

Tony Maglio

Tony Maglio

TV Editor • tony.maglio@thewrap.com • Twitter: @tonymaglio



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