COVID-19 Brings Younger Demos Back to TV, Increasing Viewing Across All Dayparts

Teens have spent 46% more time watching TV during the pandemic

A group of people watching TV
Advertisers have struggled to reach younger audiences on ad-supported TV, but they've been flocking back during the pandemic. Getty Images
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Key insights:

As Americans begin yet another week of sheltering in place due to COVID-19, their TV viewing has continued to increase across all demographics and dayparts, but particularly among younger audiences and daytime television, according to a new VAB report.

Time spent watching TV overall has risen 17% among total viewers, 39% for kids 2-11 and 46% for teens 12-17, the VAB said in its TV in the Time of COVID-19 report.

The report compared weekly minutes of TV viewed during the week of March 16—the first week that most Americans began working from home amid the novel coronavirus spread, which was classified as a pandemic by the World Heath Organization on March 11—with the last week of February, Feb. 24.

Adults 18-34, a demo that has become increasingly tougher for advertisers to reach on ad-supported television, spent 83 million more hours watching TV during that first week of the lockdown than the last week of February.

Television viewership has increased across all dayparts, but especially daytime TV, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Teens 12-17 are spending 175% more time watching in that timeframe compared to a month earlier, while adults 18-34 are up 45% and adults 35-49 have jumped 42%.

The VAB found that 72% of all households watched daytime TV during the week of March 16, compared to 64% the week of Feb. 24.

Late-night viewing is also seeing a spike among younger audiences, with teens 12-17 spending 22% more time and adults 18-34 devoting 12% more time to watching late-night programming.

Primetime saw a 18% boost among teens and an 8% increase among adults 18-34.


“This finding underscores the point that marketers should not deem any daypart ‘off-limits,’” said VAB evp Danielle DeLauro in a statement. “With every daypart showing increases, now more than ever marketers should be targeting by audience, not daypart. The audience for daytime TV has particularly changed dramatically, now filled with school age kids and younger, working adults.”

As for what content audiences are viewing, the VAB found that weekly time spent watching ad-supported TV news has jumped 81% for adults 18-34, 66% for adults 35-49 and 43% for adults 50-64. Meanwhile, viewership of ad-supported movies has increased 61% for teens 12-17 and 32% for adults 18-34.

The VAB report is the latest indication of how viewing habits have changed and increased amid the pandemic.

Data from Inscape two weeks ago found that without live sports, fans had switched to binge-watching and news, with viewers spending 47% more time streaming than the previous weekend.

And a week ago, Nielsen found that TV time has spiked for kids stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, with total television use up 18% compared to the previous week.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.