Exclusive: Spike in Video Streaming Lingered Even as Coronavirus Restrictions Eased

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
August 5, 2020
With months stuck inside and lingering concerns about the spread of COVID-19, people have been streaming and watching TV more than ever. 
New data from online video analytics company Conviva showed overall streaming and connected device viewership was up 63 percent globally during the second quarter of 2020 compared to the same time last year. Americans, in particular, upped their viewership time by 57 percent during that time period. 
TV viewing on smart TVs during the second quarter saw a 239 percent increase year-over-year. Viewership on connected devices like Rokus and Amazon Fire TVs went up 61 percent while streaming time on game consoles jumped more than 55 percent. 
"When sheltering-in-place is happening or outdoor activities are restricted, it's going to add to an increase in streaming TV," said Conviva CEO Bill Demas.
With so many businesses closed and employers asking people to work from home, Demas said people are adopting habits conducive to more streaming. 
"If you are at home more, you're more likely to stream," he pointed out. "Your kids are home more and the school day is not regulated or on a fixed schedule. There's more likely to be more streaming. I do think we're going to continue to see this uptick." 
Most of the increases during the second quarter were seen during the month of April. It waned later in the quarter but was still up overall in May and June when coronavirus-related restrictions relaxed. 
However, now that stay-at-home orders are coming back, viewers may be returning to their screens. Plus, there are live sports to watch now. 
"We saw obviously this big spike after COVID-19 resulted in shutdowns, and then things drifted off a little bit," Demas said. "Now with the return of sports and sports viewership up significantly, we may be more attached to our streaming devices more than ever."
Major League Baseball's game between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals on July 23 pulled in an audience of four million, making it the most-watched MLB opening night broadcast ever. NBC recorded a 1.572 million viewer audience for its National Hockey League matchup between the Montreal Canadiens and the Pittsburgh Penguins on August 1, making it the most-viewed NHL game this season. 
Turner Sports chief revenue officer, Jon Diament, had predicted big numbers for the NBA return doubleheader, and he was right. The two games averaged 3.4 million viewers, up 109 percent compared to the average NBA viewership for a pre-pandemic game this season. 
But despite increased viewership, ad rates did not go up last quarter. Conviva saw ad attempts — or the number of times ads were called from the server to appear on a streaming or connected TV program — go down globally by 28 percent during Q2 2020 compared to the first quarter of the year. The rate dropped 22 percent in the U.S. alone. A lot of the decrease may be due to brands cutting ad budgets during the pandemic, Demas said. 
However, as video ad platforms improve their services, like making sure people don't see too many of the same ads in one program and upgrading streaming quality, Demas thinks there will be an increase in ad prices which will only accelerate as people cut the cord. 
"Traditional TV, and linear TV, has a lot to fear," he said. 
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