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High TV Ad Spend From Streamers and Quibi’s Much-Anticipated Debut

Americans are staying home during the coronavirus pandemic and—unsurprisingly—watching more TV. In fact, the first three weeks of March saw an 85 percent spike in total streaming minutes compared to the same three-week period in 2019, according to a Nielsen study. During the week of March 16 alone, viewers clocked over 156 billion minutes of television streaming content on their televisions. (That number is limited to Smart TVs and doesn’t count mobile or computer viewing, which would make it even higher.) In addition to increased viewership, ad time bought by streaming services is also up. Here’s a look at how it’s all playing out among different channels and platforms.

High National TV Spend Among Video Streamers
MediaPost reports that video streaming services have increased national television ad spend. According to, 28,787 national TV spots aired in the month of March, compared to only 17,926 at the same time last year. That volume is due to marketing support for new services launched in the last twelve months, namely Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and AT&T TV, as well as messaging related to Covid-19. For one week in March, Hulu ads led, followed by Disney Plus, AT&T TV, Sling and Amazon Prime Video. Broadcast and cable networks including NBC, ABC, Fox, CBS, FX and ESPNews gained high portions of the total media spend for the services. Big shows saw the greatest number of streaming TV ads in March, including The Voice (NBC), American Idol (ABC), The Walking Dead (AMC) and Friday Night Smackdown (Fox).

Quibi Debuts to Mixed Reviews
Years in the making and following months of anticipation, as well as some controversy, Quibi officially debuted on April 6 (at a monthly cost of $5, with ads, or $8 for the ad-free tier). The mobile app from founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman launched with 50 shows and hopes of growing the roster to 175 by year end. Offerings range from six to 10 minutes in length and can only be viewed on phones—much to some consumers’ initial chagrin. The launch lineup includes short “Daily Essentials News” broadcasts and ESPN programming, largely focused right now on coronavirus updates and the current lack of live sports coverage. Additional scripted content features movies, rolled out in “chapters,” plus a roster of shows ranging from comedies to dramas to reality TV starring the likes of Chrissy Teigen and RuPaul.

Explicitly designed for viewing on-the-go—waiting in line, commuting on the subway—Quibi’s appearance in a time of social distancing and sheltering in place may have hurt the newest streamer, despite strong pre-launch awareness.. Launch day downloads, which totaled 300,000 in its first 24 hours, are dwarfed by comparison to the roughly four million downloads enjoyed by Disney Plus when it premiered last November. But, these are early days and different times. Quibi is now promoting a 90-day free trial, and T-Mobile is offering one year of free access to select mobile customers plus military service members. Those efforts seem to be paying off. By the end of its first week, Quibi downloads soared to 1.7 million. The next few months promise to be a dynamic time for Quibi and its many fellow streaming mates, and we’ll be keeping a keen eye on emerging developments.