Early Holiday Trends Show Continued Decline in TV Viewership


Jeffrey Silverman, PhD
Director, Data Science & Analytics
Dec 10, 2019

Did your target audience watch your linear TV commercial during the Thanksgiving weekend, or were they too busy trying to stream the Mandalorian on their mobile phone? 

We all know that when the holidays roll around, advertising spend increases in the hopes that consumers will buy the company’s product for their friends and family. In this critical time of the year for consumer sales, advertisers need to adapt to the changing environment to reach their target audience. Samba TV is analyzing holiday viewership trends to help provide insight into that environment.

Early results for holiday TV viewership show an overall decline in linear broadcasts, which follows similar trends over the last few years, including the Fall 2019 Premiere week. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, programming that is traditionally popular (sports, parades, etc) saw a significant decline when compared to viewership in 2018.

2018/2019 Comparison for Thanksgiving Programming Viewership by Day

Thanksgiving day saw a 41.6% decline in TV viewers. Friday and Saturday were down by 31.3% and 36.6% respectively, and Sunday saw a whopping 65.3% drop in viewership when compared to 2018. There are many factors for this decline, including more entertainment options as well as the general increase in cord-cutting. 

Let’s take a look to see how this overall decline affected a few specific Thanksgiving week staples; The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, The National Dog Show, and college football.

The Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been a holiday tradition since 1924, but not even its historical staying power could make it immune to the overall decline in linear TV viewers. The number of households that watched the parade decreased by 33% between 2018 and 2019.

The National Dog Show has long been a go-to post-parade viewing for American families, but this year 42.1% fewer households tuned in to see Thor the Bulldog make history by taking Best In Show. 

College football’s best rivalry takes place on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, Ohio State versus Michigan. This year’s game did not disappoint as the #1 ranked Buckeyes beat the Wolverines. Even though the game was highly anticipated amongst sports fans, overall there were 21.8% fewer households watching the rivalry game in 2019 compared to 2018.  

So, how do you reach your holiday audiences when they aren’t on the couch watching your TV commercials? Samba can help! For example, you can use Samba’s audience data for cross-screen campaigns to reach sports fans, or target last year’s viewers of these events.

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