A Closer Look at how Media Companies are Faring in Primetime


Rebecca Fine
Associate Dir., Research & Media Insights
Jun 11, 2020

As audiences stay at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to watch TV. Of course, the key for an advertiser to effectively leverage this increase in time is to understand where the behavioral shifts are occurring. Upon taking a closer look at the data, certain media companies have experienced gains in viewers, while others are losing. Clearly, the type of network programming under these media company umbrellas can have an impact on each company’s overall numbers, as certain network types--such as national sports--continue hurting from a lack of new, live programming. 

To better understand how individual media companies have been impacted, Samba TV once again partnered with Variety, one of the leading entertainment trade publications, to analyze how major media companies have fared in terms of primetime linear programming. 

To better understand gains and losses, Samba compared viewership for nine media conglomerates in the first two weeks of March to the first two weeks of April. Our analysis also broke down these network portfolios by programming type, to show what content types are seeing increased or decreased viewership. 

Variety published this analysis in a story, TV’s Initial Winners & Losers In COVID-19 Crisis, highlighting some key points of the analysis:

  • Fueled by new shows and movies on Hallmark, Crown Media had an 11.2% increase in viewership.
  • Driven in large part by a 7.8 million hour increase in time spent watching the premium Showtime network and its new programming (ex: latest Penny Dreadful series), ViacomCBS had 9.6% growth, month over month.
  • AMC’s 4.4% increase was primarily driven by the 1 million increase in total viewing hours for their movies channels, which include IFC and Sundance. 
  • The declines for AT&T, Fox, Comcast, and Disney were a result of the large decrease in viewership for sports channels.  

A previous collaboration with Variety's Intelligence Platform service found that Americans are watching less linear programming during primetime, likely switching to Connected TV and over-the-top streaming options for their 7-10pm viewing. 

This shift in viewing habits will remain one of the most important trends for the rest of the year. Samba TV will continue to monitor how viewers are spending their time interacting with TV as we help our partners and clients navigate this new paradigm.

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