People naturally turn to TV for connections with others. From gathering around a shared TV set in the 1950s to posting about their favorite show on social media today, it has always played a significant role in our social experiences. 

During a time when our interactions with others are limited, the desire for communal television is as prevalent as ever. We seek out mutual experiences and shared points of reference as audiences of all ages strive to remain connected during calls to stay at home and follow social distancing protocols. 

One way audiences are finding this connection is through TV co-viewing. Nielsen data shows that co-viewing makes up 34% of streaming behavior and 48% of linear TV viewing. Since the start of the pandemic, these co-viewing numbers have increased even more, especially connected TV viewership. In fact, CTV use in living rooms hasgrown noticeably, which Nielsen attributes to a heightened desire to spend time with others while watching TV. 

Co-viewing across all TV-viewing platforms peaked during the week of March 23, but even as states begin reopening, the co-viewing trend is pressing forward. Research from Ipsos found that when people were considering streaming service subscriptions, “we” statements increasedthirteen percent from last year, whereas “me” statements increased just three percent. As the “we” mentality becomes widespread, people are transitioning to think of TV viewing as a communal experience. For example, as parents spend more time at home with their children and have limited entertainment options, they seek out content that they can watch with their kids, such as The Not Too Late Show with Elmo on HBO. 

Viewers are gravitating to streaming watch parties

TV-viewing as a means of social connection has not only grown within a household in the form of co-viewing, but across households as well through streaming services’ watch parties. 

Watch parties allow users to view content with others while physically apart, either through the platform itself or a plug-in extension. For example, Twitch, a platform owned by Amazon, gives users watch-party access to Prime Video content. HBO and Hulu launched group streaming options as well. Interestingly, sixty-one percent of Hulu users watch content with others in their household, indicating the prevalence of both co-viewing and group watch parties on connected TV platforms.  

Co-viewing increases audiences’ advertising engagement

As these TV-viewing habits grow in popularity, it introduces the question, what does this mean for advertisers? 

According to research from the Video Advertising Bureau, co-viewing increases an audience’s engagement with an ad by 33 percent compared to solo viewing. Advertisements also generate a higher emotional response in co-viewers (71 percent) than single viewers (37 percent), and 63 percent of audiences say that they discuss the programming and advertisements they see on TV when watching with others. Co-viewing audiences are also less likely to change the channel.  

These benefits of advertising in co-viewing environments show that television’s social connectivity is quite advantageous for advertisers. When people watch together, they engage with advertisements more.  

The practice of advertising to co-viewing audiences is not new; advertisers have been aware of their multi-viewer audience for years. However, the introduction of new tools into the market helps advertisers and networks more accurately count co-viewers.  

Counting co-viewership on linear TV is already an established practice, but the method for connected TV is developing and gaining traction. As a Digiday article explains, connected TVs’ first-party data is matched against Nielsen’s data to determine the number of people watching TV in a room. Then, a co-viewing factor is calculated to allow for accurate audience impression counts. 

Harnessing data in this manner is critical for advertisers as the trends of co-viewing and watch parties continue. It brings the consideration of group engagement to the forefront of an ad campaign, and it allows for the inclusion of co-viewership in impressions, which reduces a campaign’s CPM. As the number of counted viewers goes up, an advertiser’s cost per impression goes down, allowing them to reach a larger audience for their advertising budget. 

As viewers turn to TV to connect with each other, advertisers can rely on it to connect with valuable TV audiences and accurately measure the impact as well.   

Julia Vitarelli

Posted by Julia Vitarelli

Marketing Intern