Mark Lives Monthly TV audience viewership figures - April 2020

27 May 2020

According to the counter at the top of my news app, we are now 49 days into lockdown. We have 12,739 positive cases of Covid-19 in SA with 5,676 recoveries.

The lockdown and subsequent economic problems that it is causing is already taking its toll on the South African media landscape with Associated Magazines and Caxton Magazines announcing last week that they were closing. The realities of the pandemic are now coming closer to home. Covid-19 is having some dramatic effects on the media consumption habits of South Africans, and I personally wouldn’t be surprised to see more sad announcements from media owners before the year is out.

But we also know that necessity is the mother of invention, and so on the other side of the coin, I think we will see many media owners changing their business models, diversifying, and find new ways of making money, and reaching new audiences. Time will tell.

Onto TV. In March we saw massive spikes in TV viewership across the country. With people being forced to stay home, time spent sitting in front the TV grew massively.

Nielsen has created a wonderful dashboard that pulls information directly from TAMS and shows us the time spent viewing. Here is a snapshot of the average daily minutes for the year so far, compared to 2018 and 2019. The spike in daily viewing minutes that you see starting from week 11 is the week that President Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster, and the week when people started to seriously take note of the pandemic in SA and to stay home.

average time spent viewing
Source: https://dashboard-eu-iport.nielsen-iwatch.com/#live/aace0493-334e-4492-8ac5-bf134e14b35a

We can see that as lockdown progressed the daily viewing minutes stabilised. From week 18 (which is when SA went into lockdown level 4 and some South African’s started to return to work), the average daily minutes have started to decline slightly.

At its peak, South Africans were spending an average of 252 minutes a day in front of the box – that is 4 hours and 12 minutes! This is a 70% increase in daily viewing minutes compared to before the pandemic. If we look at daytime vs. primetime, we can see that increased by 75% whilst primetime grew by 67%. With people sitting at home, unusual media consumption patterns are emerging.

The daily breakdown for April looked like this:

average time spent viewing
Source: https://dashboard-eu-iport.nielsen-iwatch.com/#live/aace0493-334e-4492-8ac5-bf134e14b35a

Moving onto the top ten shows. First the main market…

TOP 10 TV SHOWS CHANNEL LSM 4-7
Uzalo SABC 1 11 382 535
Generations: The Legacy SABC 1 9 671 777
Skeem Saam SABC 1 8 788 444
Zulu News SABC 1 6 019 790
Xhosa News SABC 1 5 967 203
Scandal ETV 5 814 990
Sgud’snaysi SABC 1 5 150 855
President on Covid-19 additional relief SABC 1 5 110 472
Muvhango SABC 2 4 992 173
Rhythym City ETV 4 892 026

The top three have not changed. We continue to see Uzalo, Generations, and Skeem Saam at the top of the table. What we do see however is a massive jump in the average audience, mirroring the spike we are seeing in daily viewing minutes:

March 2020 Apr 2020 % Diff.
Uzalo 9 486 146 11 382 535 +20%
Generations: The Legacy 7 829 601 9 671 777 +24%
Skeem Saam 5 784 067 8 788 444 +52%

Continuing with last month’s theme of news content being a highly sought after programme genre, we see the President’s address to the nation about the R500 billion relief package appearing at no. 8, and the Zulu News and Xhosa News both leapfrogging the long-time fourth place holder, Scandal on ETV, pushing it down into 6th place. Comparing the month on month performance of these two vernacular news broadcasts, we can see just how important news has become:

Feb 2020 Mar 2020 Apr 2020 % Diff. Apr on
Zulu news 3 190 491 6 019 790 +38%
Xhosa news 3 282 960 4 149 079 5 967 203 +44%

Moving on to the high-income earners.

If you have been following this column for the last few months you will have seen how the top three shows watched by the high income earners has mirrored that of the main market. Uzalo, Generations, and Skeem Saam have consistently taken the top three spots for as long as I can remember. Last month however we saw one of the President’s lockdown addresses pop up in position two, after Uzalo. Now in in April, we have seen yet another change – and this one I find amusing…let’s look at the top 10 shows watched by people in LSM 8-10…

TOP 10 TV SHOWS CHANNEL LSM 8-10
Contagion SABC 3 1 842 149
Uzalo SABC 1 1 444 715
Skeem Saam SABC 1 1 262 802
Generations SABC 1 1 094 402
The Queen Mzansi Magic 1 058 746
Gomora Mzansi Magic 931 159
Zulu News SABC 1 752 410
Our Perfect Wedding Mzansi Magic 750 494
Xhosa News SABC 1 738 144
Scandal ETV 734 854

It is funny to see how a movie about a mystery virus that overwhelms the world, was the number one watched programme by the high income earners – and this programme was on SABC 3. SABC 3 hasn’t made any list, against any target audience, for a very long time!

Also interesting to note is how ETV is losing out against the top-end as a result of Covid-19. As with the main market where Scandal, usually a dead cert for position 4, was pushed down the list due to news, likewise against the high income segment, Scandal has dropped all the way down to position 10. Rhythm City, the other ETV favourite usually in the top 10 is now down to no. 17. If we cast our minds back to January of this year (feels like 5 years ago), ETV had 4 programmes in the top 10! ETV however remains a strong proposition for advertisers wanting to reach both the main and high income audience segments.

Mzansi Magic continues to do well, with a new show of theirs – Gomora, a rags to riches telenovela (not the Guardian of the Galaxy) – entering in at number 6. The old favourites of OPW and The Queen remain firmly in place.

As South Africa starts to enter a new phase in our fight against Covid-19, and as more and more South African’s are allowed to go back to work, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for media consumption in general, and TV viewing in particular. As shown by the average viewing minutes above, we are already seeing the impact that level 4 is having. As we move to level 3, will we continue to see people sheltering in place and consuming daytime TV, or will we start return to normal viewing behaviour (whatever normal means)?

Stay Safe! Stay curious!

Author: Richard Lord is Media & Operations Director at Meta Media