Connected TV Usage Soars, Even as States Reopen

By John Springer  | 

When the country went on coronavirus lockdown in March, Americans were confined to their homes and television viewing rates understandably spiked. Now, all 50 states have begun to reopen and rising summer temps make the outdoors ever more alluring. And still, connected TV usage remains higher than during pre-Covid-19 levels, according to new Nielsen data. This spells good news for marketers, suggesting that increased viewing will continue even as we come fully out of quarantine. We look at some of the ways CTV has helped shape viewing patterns, and what those shifts might look like moving forward.

Steady Growth
Connected TV ownership has steadily increased over the last decade, from 24 percent in 2010 to 74 percent in 2018, according to Leichtman Research Group. 80 percent of US homes now own at least one connected TV device. It follows that daily consumption of video content on CTV would also be up. 40 percent of US television households now view content daily on a connected TV, up from 12 percent in 2015 and a mere 1 percent in 2010—a meteoric jump. Clear reasons exist for the popularity of connected TVs, including friendly price points, ease of setup and use, and increasingly faster Wi-Fi capabilities. Usage likewise breaks down across expected demographic lines, with daily use by 55 percent of 18-34-year-olds, followed by 48 percent among 35-54-year-olds and only 18 percent of viewers 55 or older. When it comes to specific devices, standalone CTV equipment (Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV) draws the highest daily usage, followed by smart TVs, game consoles and only a few Blu-ray players. According to a Pixalate report, Roku enjoyed a 44 percent increase in ad spend between April and May, while Apple jumped by 40 percent.

New Normal
Nielsen figures show that at the start of March weekly CTV usage totaled 2.7 billion hours. Following the first week of shelter-in-place orders, that figure skyrocketed to 3.8 billion hours. Weeks passed and other viewing options, including live TV, began downshifting to pre-coronavirus levels, yet CTV numbers refused to drop in any significant way. They hovered between 3.8 and 3.9 billion hours per week for the rest of March and April. By the start of May, users were logging 3.5 billion hours each week on CTV devices, a year-over-year increase of 81 percent.

Platforms like YouTube and Roku are supporting this trend with new features benefitting both viewers and advertisers. In early May, YouTube fast-tracked two features that had been slated to appear in the second half of 2020. The new skippable ad format lets viewers jump over a spot after six seconds and the company’s Brand Lift feature provides advertisers with brand awareness measurement so they can better understand the effectiveness of their campaigns, In June, Roku debuted 30 new channels on its free, ad-supported Roku Channel, speeding up that release to provide access to additional news and information during nationwide Black Lives Matter protests.

Into the Future
After seeing a reduction in ad spend of 14 percent in March, programmatic CTV advertising increased 40 percent between April 5 and May 11. All the major device types saw at least a 12 percent uptick in spend, which is a promising sign for the continued popularity of connected TV. Roku, Insignia and Vizio led the charge, with 44 percent, 74 percent and 108 percent advertising gains, respectively. Similarly, kids and family apps on Roku witnessed a 128 percent increase in programmatic ad spend between April and May. This comes as streamers scramble to introduce new children’s programming, which has never been more heartily craved than during the global pandemic that forced kids out of school and left parents seeking new options for distraction.

During this time of separation, CTV usage has been increasing and shows no sign of slowing down. Given the huge percentage of Americans who now own Connected TV devices, and the popularity of advertising there, it’s a platform that is surely here to stay.

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