by Richard Lord (@rlord182) What a difference a month makes! But, before we get to the March 2020 TV numbers, I thought I’d discuss the broad effects that covid-19 is having on media consumption in South Africa.
When I wrote the February column a month ago, covid-19 was something that we were only vaguely interested in from an intellectual POV as it was happening in other countries but not yet in SA. We were all still working in our offices, having face-to-face meetings, exercising in the gym, taking our dogs for a walk and going out for a run or a cycle.
Fast-forward several weeks and we find ourselves in lockdown.
Most of us have been working from home for three or even four weeks, and the world that we know is a very different place! Last month, we were worried about the effects of load shedding on media consumption; now we’re wondering what the impact of forced isolation means for advertisers and media owners alike!
First, all media that’s consumed in groups — such as cinema, events, sports — is no more. Cinemas are closed; sport has been cancelled; gatherings have been banned. Airports are closed, and the roads are empty as the nation is in lockdown so out-of-home (OOH) advertising is ineffective for now [with exceptions: see this piece by Margie Carr — ed]. If you haven’t already, chat to your media agency and review your strategies.
However, if you’re not already investing in digital, then now’s the time to increase your budgets as digital’s seeing a massive spike in activity, especially social media and news websites. Below is a graph supplied by News24 and you can see the impact that covid-19 is having on its audience! Massive!
But what about TV? What will the effects of the lockdown have on TV viewership in South Africa?
People are at home during the day, and daytime TV viewership is and will be increasing. Before the lockdown, daytime already offered advertisers great value. In this column, I’ve spoken about how certain shows outside of primetime (6pm–9pm) have really good audiences with really competitive rates and CPPs. This is only going to improve. In fact, we’ve already seen evidence of this happening.
Looking at just the SABC and e.tv, and comparing the week before President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster in SA and the week after, when people started to self-isolate and work from home (we didn’t have the complete data for the first full week of lockdown yet at the time of writing), we see a significant increase in average TV ratings across various time channels of the day:
|Overall average weekly ratings (SABC & e.tv, all adults 15+)||+28.1%|
There’s an increase across the board but look at the increase in the 4pm–6pm time channel specifically… this is when most working people would be commuting home from the office but now they’re already home, and we’re seeing a massive jump in audience in this time channel. Advertisers who shift some spend to this time channel can benefit from increased audiences, and lower CPPs = better media efficiency.
Also, if we look at how specific programme genres are being impacted, as well as with the News24 digital example I shared above, we’re seeing that audiences tuning into news programming on TV have increased by 37%. This shows that South Africans are hungry for news information at the moment!
What are March’s top 10 shows (averaged data)? First the main market (LSM 4–7):
Top 10 TV shows
|Uzalo||SABC 1||9 486 146|
|Generations: The Legacy||SABC 1||7 829 601|
|Skeem Saam||SABC 1||5 784 067|
|Scandal||e.tv||4 547 046|
|isiZulu News||SABC 1||4 351 305|
|isiXhosa News||SABC 1||4 149 079|
|Muvhango||SABC 2||4 099 883|
|Sgud’snaysi||SABC 1||4 097 619|
|Ngempela||SABC 1||3 908 719|
|Mina Nawe||SABC 1||3 623 974|
To reinforce my point above about the audience growth for news content, we see isiZulu and isiXhosa news jumping firmly into the top 10 and taking up positions 5 and 6, replacing Muvhango, which is a consistent contender for the top five. Last month, by comparison, isiZulu news ranked no. 12 and isiXhosa news was no. 14. If we compare the average audience the week before and the week after the national disaster was declared, the picture becomes even clearer.
|isiZulu news||3 453 848||4 825 005||+39.7%|
|isiXhosa news||3 004 022||4 809 780||+60.1%|
What about the high-income earners? For the longest time, the top three programmes watched by the high-income earners mirrored that of the main market. But last month we saw a change, with the state of the nation (SONA) address coming in at no. 2, and now, for the second month in a row, we have a new entry, which again drives home the point about how important news content has become during this time.
Top 10 TV shows
|Uzalo||SABC 1||1 133 361|
|SABC News: Covid-19 Lockdown||SABC 2||963 753|
|Skeem Saam||SABC 1||887 852|
|Generations: The Legacy||SABC 1||833 858|
|The Queen||Mzansi||652 128|
|isiZulu News||SABC 1||582 617|
|Our Perfect Wedding||Mzansi||548 299|
|Xhosa News||SABC 1||547 326|
|Imbewu: The Seed||e.tv||518 027|
Covid-19 has become a defining moment of our time and generation, and people want to keep abreast of developments. How long this will last before news fatigue sets in? We can only guess. But, for now, brands that want to capture a lot of eyeballs should consider the news genre an important one.
What’s important, however, is that brands be very careful about their tone during this time. We’ve plenty of examples of brands that are getting it right but others have been accused by consumers of being tone-deaf. Consumers are scared at the moment and, in times like these, we all draw comfort from the things that we trust — and brands are one of those things. But brands which try to exploit the situation to turn a profit are going to be panned by consumers. Brands need to be sensitive; they need to show consumers that they care, that they are here for people in their time of need, and that we are all in this together!
Stay home, stay safe!
While we have your attention: Please would you consider taking out a MarkLives membership to help finance our operations? The covid-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on society and industry. With your support, either as a once-off or monthly contribution, we can continue our coverage of its impact on our industry.
Richard Lord (@rlord182) is media and operations director at Meta Media, South Africa’s newest media agency and part of the IPG global network and Nahana Communications Group of specialist agencies. With over 20 years’ experience in the media industry and having worked for FCB, UM in London, and The MediaShop, he’s spent most of his career with IPG. Richard contributes the monthly “Watched” column, which analyses monthly TV audience viewership figures in South Africa, to MarkLives.com.
This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.