Sandy & TV Viewing – Another Look

In the last blog post, we saw that in New York, TV viewing rose in the afternoon hours, and then fell as power was lost throughout the region. I’d like to look a bit at other markets; did a similar bump and fall in viewing occur? And did viewing go back to normal after the storm hit? We also saw that affiliates’ share rose during the storm. Did that happen across markets? And did the share go back after the storm?

For those short of attention span (or time), the answer is that across the markets we looked at, including Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, NY, and Boston, there was a consistent pattern of higher viewership during the day Sandy hit that then fell back to normal after the storm. Only New York, which was heavily hit by power outages, had a large drop in Prime viewing during the storm. All the markets had a jump in affiliate share across the day of the storm, which then fell back the week after.

Local news is clearly a place where viewers go to seek information. In addition, viewers quadrupled their ordering of movies On Demand, and all On Demand viewing increased by 60% on average across the markets. People watched what they wanted to. Bottom line, TV is still a connecting, powerful medium – though not as strong as Mother Nature! And only Rentrak, with our “big data” approach, can provide these insights.

Details to follow.

The chart below shows Homes Using Television (HUT) in the New York market by hour for the Monday before the storm, October 22, the day of the storm, Monday, October 29, and for Monday, November 5, the week after the storm hit. These projections are based on the approximately 90,000 homes Rentrak has in the market. (Note that our HUTs are higher than the traditional metric because we do not filter out duplicate viewing (when a home views more than one program.) We will count that home twice in our HUT.) What you can clearly see is an increase in HUT on the 29th in the daytime hours versus the 22nd, when many more people were at home… and then the storm hit, power was lost in many areas, and viewership never grew to what is normally seen in Prime. By the week after the storm, viewership patterns came back to normal. Prime Time viewing was a bit lower on November 5 than on October 22, where the last Presidential debate brought in more viewers.


This pattern, without the sharp loss of viewership in Prime due to power issues, was reflected in Washington, D.C. (with more than 50,000 homes in the Rentrak footprint), Philadelphia (with more than 30,000 Rentrak homes), and Boston (wih more than 20,000 Rentrak homes). Of the three, Philadelphia had the greatest drop in Prime, though slight compared to New York.




What is also interesting is the share of viewing that major affiliates had across all markets. Their viewing picked up during the day, and held fairly steady, even as the storm raged. Numbers came back to normal across all markets the week after the storm. All the markets had a “bump” in Prime share for the affiliates during the Presidential debate on October 22.





In terms of Video On Demand, as the table below shows, comparing the number of transactions during the storm to the Monday before the storm, there was a huge spike in viewing across all markets, with the biggest increase, by a factor of more than 400% in paid transactions for movies. Viewing for pay cable On Demand transactions went up by more than 50%, as did viewing for free TV programs. The numbers may even be understated in NY because Time Warner lost reporting information from one of their data warehouses.


And by the week after the storm, on November 5, VOD viewership fell back, much closer to the levels of the Monday before the storm.


So what we saw from the first with the storm in one market holds true across several markets. TV usage was up, local station viewership was up, and VOD transactions were up. And might I say, only Rentrak, with tens of thousands of homes in these markets, and millions across the country, along with a census view of On Demand transactions, can give its clients this sort of robust learning.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.


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