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Updated: Jan 27, 2023

Systemic societal changes brought on by the pandemic have caused growth in TV viewing and buoyed the DRTV advertising industry in the UK.

At the outset of the global pandemic in March 2020 there was certainly fear in the UK TV advertising markets about what the future would hold in terms of both audiences and respective revenues. Whist many major TV advertisers pulled out of the market almost overnight in Quarter Two 2020, as the first national lockdown was ordered by Government, an unexpected surge in home TV viewing occurred. This was driven by the vast majority of people now working from home as staff deserted their offices, coupled with mass news consumption.

These concurrent macro market influences drove down the costs of TV airtime to levels unseen since post the crash in 2001. This has meant that many advertisers who operate their own D2C business, particularly those in the DRTV sector that traditionally broadcast during daytime, have flourished in the past year.

Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV, have recently published their audience viewing summary for 2020 that shows traditional linear TV remains in rude health with increases in viewing of both live TV and Video on Demand (VoD). This is despite the fierce competition from the key players in the Subscription on Video Demand (SVoD) field; Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+, amongst a myriad of other digital platforms vying for viewer’s attention.

The headline news is that live TV and VoD have both seen significant increase in viewing against both the 16-34 year old demographic, and also ‘all adults’ in the last year. In terms of viewing, 92% of all video advertising was consumed on both live TV and VoD. Some major broadcasters are reporting year on year audience uplifts of 30% during the daytime daypart, and DRTV advertisers have on the whole enjoyed a bumper start to 2021.

Looking ahead, the Government continues to grapple with the fine balance of opening up the UK’s economy, including the extension of the furlough scheme to September, and managing the mass vaccination programme and the potential existential threat of a third surge of COVID. This material societal uncertainty has continued to drive a sustained systemic change of culture of working from home, and TV audiences are predicted to stay at enhanced levels for the foreseeable future.

In many recent surveys, of both employers and employees, up to 50% of workers will be unlikely to returning to the office in the foreseeable future. This migration and fundamental change in daily working habits will continue to drive incremental audience ratings of television in the months ahead, but in particular during the daytime daypart.

Whilst the COVID crisis of the last 12 months has had a devastating impact on the economy and the vast majority of the entertainment industries, it has also strengthened and grown traditional TV viewing as well as growing streaming platforms in the UK – so the future is starting to look brighter for TV advertisers and particularly those in the DRTV sector.

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