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Connected TV Usage Keeps Momentum as Traditional TV Viewing Normalizes

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NEW YORK—The amount of time people spent watching connected TVs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a growth, along with overall media use. Now, as restrictions start to ease, traditional TV viewing numbers are starting to normalize, but connected TVs (CTV) numbers are remaining well above their pre-COVID levels, according to Nielsen.

CTV usage includes smart TVs, internet-connected devices and game consoles. During shelter-in-place orders, consumption over CTVs rose by more than 1 billion hours. But it now appears that this increased use of CTVs could very well be part of the new normal in media consumption habits.

Prior to stay-at-home orders in mid-March, weekly CTV consumption was under 3 billion hours (2.9 billion from March 9-15). For the first five weeks of social distancing, weekly consumption was either 3.8 or 3.9 billion hours. Since the week ending on April 19, those numbers have decreased, but as of the week of May 4-10, weekly consumption of CTV was still 3.5 billion hours, according to Nielsen’s numbers. Traditional TV viewing in early May was only slightly higher than in 2019, Nielsen says.

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A key element of CTVs increase usage, per Nielsen, is its variety of content options, including streaming apps, OTT channels and gaming. Also, its library content that is among the most popular with viewers, as 60% of the SVOD minutes viewed are attributed to acquired content rather than original programming for streaming companies.

Even before COVID-19, there were upward trends for CTV. As of March 2020, Nielsen data showed that 76% of U.S. homes had at least one connected device. In the early part of the year, CTV devices were being used about 12.5 billion hours each month. When quarantines began, total hours spent using CTV devices increased 81% year-over-year, equating to nearly 4 billion hours per week.

“The rise in overall media consumption during U.S. shelter-in-place restrictions was expected, although perhaps not to the degree which it did,” Nielsen said in its report. “With 49 of the U.S. states now re-open at least partially, the continued high CTV usage is a testament to consumers’ attraction to the variety of options available and the connectivity they have to it.”

Find out more at Nielsen’s website