Saturday, July 20, 2024

College basketball boosts satellite TV viewership in the US in March


Seasonality plays a big role in the overall 3% decline in TV usage during the month.

Following seasonal trends that typically begin in February, overall U.S. TV usage declined again in March. Despite declines across all categories, cable and streaming television saw increases in their share of viewers in this month’s report from The ScaleTMThis is thanks to smaller declines in these categories compared to the overall monthly decline of 3%. While these changes follow similar monthly trends to last year, they highlight broader changes in Americans’ media habits.

The growing influence of women’s sports

As in March 2023, the NCAA Tournament helped “March Madness” hold cable viewership flat and gain 0.7 share points, as the category saw a 43% increase in sports viewing, ending the month with 28.3% TV viewing. However, unlike last year, which was driven almost exclusively by the men’s division, women’s NCAA games are on television in March.

In fact, the NCAA women’s basketball game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the West Virginia Mountaineers on March 25 on ESPN was among the top 10 cable broadcasts for the month (7th overall). Last year, the same game barely made it into the top 100 games on cable. This does not include the Elite Eight, Final Four and championship games played in April.

The tournament’s appeal among sports fans highlights the impact of high-demand content on audiences, regardless of platform or channel, and also highlights the broader trend we are seeing in the rise of women’s sports.

After March Madness, TV changes from February to March in 2024 roughly match the shift seen last year, reflecting seasonality in ratings as a result of annual changes in weather, holidays, vacations, etc. But if we analyze the data deeper, we can see that there are broader shifts affecting the sector.

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Following a seasonal trend similar to that seen in recent years, streaming fell 6% in March, reaching a 22.5% share of television. To add a little perspective, when Nielsen released the first issue of ScaleTM In May 2021, the streaming category represented 25% of viewers, and despite continued declines, the category has proven very resilient, with a less severe decline than one might expect.

In comparison, live streaming viewership was down just 1% from last month, but gained 0.8 share points, to 38.5% of TV viewing in March. No category saw a more dramatic change than live streaming year over year, up 12% from last year and adding 4.4 share points. Part of this shift has been driven by FAST channel providers (PlutoTV, The Roku Channel, and TubiTV), while a significant portion of titles have been fed content from cable networks.

While the cable category may be shrinking in terms of TV engagement, cable content remains strong with consumers. Following March Madness, the March 7 State of the Union address, which drew a total of 32.2 million viewers (14.1 million on cable alone), reminds us that cable remains a news-driven category, with six of the top 10 TV channels this month tied to the event. As November approaches, cable TV will play an important role in how audiences engage with news media ahead of the 2024 US elections.

Methodology and FAQs

The measure data comes from two separately weighted panels and is combined to create the histogram. Nielsen’s streaming data comes from the subset of TV households that support the Streaming Meter within the national TV panel. Linear TV sources (broadcast and cable) and overall usage are based on Nielsen’s overall TV panel viewership.

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All data is based on the time period of each viewing source. Data, representing one month of broadcast, are based on Live+7 viewing for the reporting period (note: Live+7 includes live TV viewing and viewing up to seven days thereafter for linear content).

As part of The Gauge, “other” includes all other uses of television that do not fall into the categories of broadcast, cable, or streaming. This primarily includes all other tuning (unmetered sources), unlimited video on demand (VOD), audio streaming, gaming and other hardware uses (DVD playback).

Beginning with the May 2023 timeframe, Nielsen began using broadcast content ratings to identify original content distributed by the platforms reported on that service to re-evaluate content viewed over cable receivers. This show will be added to the stream and the streaming platform that distributed it. It will also be removed from the “Other” category it was previously listed in. Content that is not identified as original within the streaming content ratings and viewed through a cable box will still be listed in the other category.

Streaming platforms listed as “other streaming” include any high-bandwidth video streaming to your TV that is not individually split. Apps designed for live streaming and cable (linear) programming (vMVPD or MVPD apps like Sling TV or Charter/Spectrum) are excluded from “Other Broadcast.”

Linear streaming via vMVPD apps (e.g., Hulu Live, YouTube TV) is excluded from the streaming category. “Hulu SVOD” and “YouTube Main” within the Streaming category refers to use of platforms without including linear streaming.


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