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Nielsen SVOD Share Live TV Viewing Jan2021While the percentage of US households using SVOD services has continued to rise, as has the share of households who subscribe to both pay-TV and SVOD services, SVOD’s portion of live TV minutes tapered off towards the end of 2020, per data from Nielsen.

Nielsen’s data shows that in April and May 2020, towards the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the share of live TV minutes US viewers (ages 2+) spent with subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) shot up to 15.1%, almost 50% higher than 6 months earlier (10.4% in October 2019). However, as lockdown restrictions eased in the third quarter, the share of minutes spent with SVOD appears to have dropped off somewhat, decreasing to 14.1% in September and 12.8% by October.

The decrease in minutes spent with SVOD coincides with the resumption of live sports broadcasting. Sports broadcasts were mostly non-existent during the early months of the pandemic, but as the NFL, NBA and other sports started or resumed their seasons, there was an uptake in sports’ share of live TV viewing minutes in September (10.7%) and October (12.6%).

It is safe to say that, while sports are back on TV, viewers don’t seem to be tuning in to watch their favorite team quite as much as they did a year earlier. September-October 2020 figures show that gross viewing minutes for sports stood at 245.6 billion, an 8% drop compared to the 265.6 billion minutes spent during the same period in 2019.

The decrease in minutes viewers spent watching sports was most pronounced with non-heavy sports viewers (-19% year-over-year), while heavy sports viewers watched 3% fewer minutes worth of sports than they did during this period in 2019.

By age group, viewers ages 25-54 experienced the largest drop-off in sports viewing time (-11% year-over-year), while viewers ages 55 and older watched 4% fewer minutes year-over-year. The only group that did not appear to change their sports viewing habits were 18-24-year-olds. This group of viewers watched 8.7 billion minutes in September-October 2020 versus 8.6 billion minutes for the same period in 2019.

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