South Africans spending 70% more time in front of TVs due to pandemic

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South Africans are spending an average of four hours and 12 minutes a day in front of their screens, compared to before, when people were watching TV for only an hour or two on a daily basis.

Did you know that during the peak of Covid-19 lockdown, people were spending an average of four hours and 12 minutes in front of the television?

According to marketing manager of Openview Chantelle Virgillito, this translates to a 70% increase in daily viewing time compared to before, when people were watching TV for only an hour or two on a daily basis.

The reasons for the increased viewing time can be attributed to several different factors, including pleasure and educational purposes.

People are either watching more entertainment, as they are looking for something to comfort them during the pandemic, said Virgillito.

“People are withdrawing from the Covid situation and trying to keep their minds busy by watching a movie, reality shows or series.

“On the other hand, viewing trends also indicate that they are trying to gather information pertaining to Covid-19.

For example, a person might watch a television series on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Showmax during the day. Because these platforms release all the episodes of a season at once, it is easier to engage in binge-watching behaviour.

Then at night, one could catch up with current affairs on news programmes that broadcast on free-to-air TV channels (SABC and e.tv) or via subscription services (CNN or BBC World News on DStv).

What will change now that people have gone back to work?

As the country moved to lockdown level 3 on 1 June 2020, many South Africans subsequently returned to work.

Virgillito explained that there is a slight decline in viewing time, but the levels have not stabilised yet to pre-Covid.

There would likely be changes in viewing habits since people have returned to work, but “once a consumer has locked into a certain programme, they will continue to watch it. Whether it be through recording the show, watching it on a catch-up service,” she added.

“Although it might change, I do still believe that the viewership will be there. It just might be consumed at different times of the day.

“Whereas people consume content anytime during the day when confined during lockdown, they may have to resort to recording it instead and watching it later when they are at home.”

Local vs international

Audiences enjoy a mixture of local and international content on screens as both are broadcast in South Africa. The question is, which remains the favourable option?

“Our local content is definitely picking up and gaining traction. If you look at the local content on e.tv, our audience ratings are peaking at almost 5 million views a day. People are enjoying local content because they can relate more to it,” said Virgillito.

Viewership statistics released in 2020 showed that the most-watched television shows were all broadcast on SABC 1: Uzalo, Generations: The Legacy and Skeem Saam. Other shows in the top 10 list included Scandal and Rhythm City (e.tv), and Muvhango (SABC 2).

“On the free-to-air channels, local content is the preferred option. However on paid services such as DStv, international content performs quite well due to bigger audiences.”

It is also worth noting that local shows such as Queen Sono and Blood & Water have gained international recognition after being made available globally on Netflix.

Satellite television

There is a cheaper alternative option for those who want to indulge in a range of quality entertainment but cannot afford the exorbitant fees charged by satellite services.

“Consumers at the moment are cash-strapped due to the difficult market conditions. Due to job losses and retrenchment, people are cutting back on their spending. This is where Openview comes in quite nicely because it is a free service that is offered,” Virgillito revealed.

Openview is South Africa’s first free-to-air satellite platform. According to Openview, the service is already activated in over two million homes nationwide.

The service offers 16 TV channels and 9 radio stations, which boast local and international content such as movies, series, kids’ entertainment, news, sports and dubbed telenovelas.

The secret to good content

Virgillito believes that the secret to good content that keeps viewers coming back for more is “serving the correct content to the correct audience at the right time”.

Channels should identify the different time slots in a day and tailor the schedule to reflect this.

“For example, serving content to housewives during the day when children are at school. Family content would serve in the early evening when kids are still awake, and adult content would be served after the 8pm slot.”

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