605 PLATF0RM Finds Consumers Increasingly Turning to News and Religious Content During COVID-19 Pandemic

Displaced “March Madness” fans over-represented in growing news audience, reflecting shift away from other sports programming

4.56 million more unique U.S. households watched religious programming in March 2020 than March 2019

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–605, a leading television measurement and analytics company, published insights today that reveal increased viewership of news and religious programming in March 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the United States. The insights were derived from 605 PLATF0RM, a web-based application that provides national television networks, advertisers and agencies with measurement and analysis across linear, over-the-air, DVR and set-top box VOD from over 21 million U.S. households across all 210 DMAs.

The annual NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, together known as “March Madness,” draw millions of viewers each year. However, this year’s cancellation of March Madness due to the COVID-19 pandemic has forced audiences to turn elsewhere for content to consume. PLATF0RM data found that rather than keeping close to their routine by watching other sports programming, viewers turned their attention instead to the news. Among 2019 viewers of March Madness, there was a 43 percent decrease in viewership of sports talk and documentary programs in 2020 compared to the year before, suggesting a mental shift away from sports and toward following the global crisis.

Other key takeaways pertaining to sports viewership are:

  • Viewers who watched March Madness in 2019 increased their viewership of news 32.3 percent – a larger increase than seen among the total population, which increased news viewership by 30.6 percent.
  • Among 2019 March Madness viewers: 64.8 percent more households are watching CNN; 36.7 percent more are watching Fox News and 11.7 percent more are watching MSNBC.

Viewers in general have turned to news programming to stay informed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Across households in the U.S., minutes spent viewing news went up 31.5 percent in March 2020 compared to the previous month – resulting in a 79 percent increase in households watching CNN, a 44 percent increase for FOX News and a 20.1 percent increase for MSNBC from February 2020.

With more Americans staying home, there is an obvious expectation of increased TV viewership. Meanwhile, networks, advertisers and agencies are looking to better target, reach and interact with their key audiences, especially during this period of amplified attention,” said Noah Levine, Chief Revenue Officer at 605. “605 PLATF0RM is able to power informed decision-making on behalf of our network, programmer and agency clients by going beyond measuring the basics, like how many people are watching, and providing fulsome analysis around what content is being consumed across devices and over time, bridging data-driven linear with addressable and cross-platform insights.”

As the number of households staying home grew throughout the month of March, an increase was also seen in audiences tuning to religious programming.

  • Average household viewership of religious programming was 44.5 percent higher in the last week of March 2020 compared to the first week, demonstrating that viewership continued to increase throughout the month as more families sheltered in place.
  • 4.56 million homes that watched less than five minutes of religious programming in March 2019 are now watching much more of it, accounting for a 6.7 percent increase in viewership of religious programming.

This analysis is based on data from the 605 PLATF0RM solution, which was the first to uniquely offer the ability to combine TV viewership datasets, allowing customers to “bring your own” viewership data and combine it with 605’s data in a secure, privacy compliant virtual “clean room.” Users can easily access second-by-second viewing information and activate anonymized data at the household level, eliminating the need for look-alike modeling that reduces accuracy during the data activation process. In an era with increased time-shifted viewing of niche content across various devices, PLATF0RM empowers customers to move beyond the existing limitations in measurement to analyze all time-shifted viewership across live, DVR and STB VOD – covering recent viewership or going as far back as two years. Additionally, an API is available for integration with in-house and third-party tools.


605 is an independent TV measurement and analytics firm that offers advertising and content measurement, full-funnel attribution, media planning, optimization and analytical solutions on top of our deterministic TV viewership dataset covering more than 21 million U.S. households across all 210 DMAs. 605’s multi-source viewership dataset offers whole-home TV viewing visibility by combining the best attributes of set-top box and ACR data. 605 is unique in that its multi-source viewership dataset supports 100 percent deterministic audience data activation at the household level while being reportable second by second with currency grade national and local projections methodologies, all in a privacy compliant manner.

605 is a leader in the advertising data technology industry with respect to viewing data and its methodology and protocol development, system performance and customer support expertise. An independent audit and review performed by KPMG LLP found that 605 achieved service organization control 3 (“SOC 3”) compliance with its Audience App product, built for Charter Communications.


Edward Ruddy

(212) 446-1887

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