Sports, Politics Bring People Back to Linear TV, Samba TV Reports

(Image credit: Samba TV)

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—Linear TV saw the return of some of its biggest draws in Q3 of 2020, and as a result it drew the eyeballs of viewers, according to an overview by Samba TV.

Samba TV, a global TV data and audience analytics provider, released its inaugural “State of Viewership Report” for 2020, which gathered insights from 33 billion hours of TV consumption projected across households in the U.S., U.K. and Germany in the third quarter of 2020. Among the findings from the report was that the return of sports and major U.S. political events proved that there people still turn in to linear TV when premium offerings are available.

On the political side, Q3 saw the Democratic an Republican National Conventions, the first debate between former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, as well as multiple interviews with both candidates. Key swing states in the election over-indexed in viewership, with particular interest among white Gen Xers and Boomers, per Samba TV.

In July, the NBA, NHL and MLB all returned after being postponed at the start of the pandemic. Each sport saw high tune-in rates across audiences, but the numbers were below pre-pandemic broadcasts of games. At the end of the quarter, the NFL returned, and it reaffirmed its position as the most consistent sport for driving viewership.

Samba TV found that cable news has been one of the most popular viewing options throughout the year, though it had highs and lows depending on events and audiences mood about it. During the early days of the pandemic, and the subsequent coverage of racial justice protests, Q2 saw a huge surge in cable news viewership. However, that didn’t hold in Q3, with Fox News, CNN and MSNBC all seeing lower household tune-in in Q3 compared to Q2, despite interest in political conventions and other events.

Overall, linear TV reach across 27 networks in September was 7% higher than the summer (June-August).

The increase in linear TV viewing did not negate viewing on connected TVs (CTV), however. From March to July, Samba TV says that there was a 225% increase in average daily viewership over CTVs. In September there was still growth, though it had flattened to a 3% increase.

“Despite what many have said, linear TV is far from dead,” said Ashwin Navin, co-founder and CEO of Samba TV. “Linear TV recovered in Q3, but not at the expense of CTV’s ongoing growth. Both are proving their staying power, bolstered by current events and the incredible diversity and quality of programming available across all platforms.”

Samba TV’s “State of Viewership Report” also touched on movie releases that went straight to streaming and linear ad performance between Q2 and Q3.

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