Coronavirus Chronicles: Shows That Received Biggest Boost from Increased TV Usage?

TV usage has spiked during the coronavirus pandemic: networks and streaming platforms are seeing increased viewing across all parts of the day and all age groups.

Shows measured by Nielsen have brought in their biggest audiences of the season, and in some cases in several years, in the past few weeks.

The upward trend in viewing is more notable for the fact that this time of year, linear ratings tend to start going down. In normal circumstances, the start of daylight saving time tends to mean viewing declines, especially in the first hour of primetime.

But while the overall trends have been well documented, there hasn’t been as much data about the gains for individual programs.

Which shows have received the biggest boost from increased TV usage?

The top of the chart is occupied by two Sunday programs: CBS’ 60 Minutes has grown by more than 2 million viewers compared to its season average (excluding weeks it had an NFL lead-in), and ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos has increased by more than 1.3 million viewers.

The long-running newsmagazine’s 18-49 rating has increased by more than 50 percent (0.73 to 1.1), while Home Videos is tied for the third-largest gain in the 18-49 demographic.

CBS 60 Minutes

The gains for 60 Minutes are not much of a surprise: News programming in general has grown substantially during the pandemic, both on broadcast and cable. The past three editions of 60 Minutes have brought the show’s three largest audiences of the season in non-NFL weeks.

America’s Funniest Home Videos, meanwhile, may be benefiting from a jump in families watching TV together. The show has long been among the leaders in co-viewing among parents and children, but it stands to reason that such viewing is on the rise with millions of kids home from school and (perhaps) bedtimes relaxed a bit.

Fourteen shows increased their same-day viewer average by at least 1 million, with three NBC shows — Chicago Med, The Voice and The Blacklist — rounding out the top five after 60 Minutes and America’s Funniest Home Videos.