Why We Turn to TV During Stressful Times

May 26, 2020

As stay-at-home orders continue in several places, TV viewership remains front and center as a hot topic of analysis and discussion. Since many people have been spending the majority of their time at home, TV (including linear and digital platforms) has become the epicenter of day-to-day life. In fact, one recent study found that homebound viewers are now watching an average of eight additional hours of TV per week!

So, aside from TV’s obvious entertainment value, why are people drawn to TV during a stressful time? Here are three of the biggest reasons:

Staying Informed

Audiences have traditionally viewed TV as a trusted medium for staying informed on the latest local and national events—and this has never been more apparent than in recent months. In light of COVID-19, people have come to rely on local TV news to stay informed about how the pandemic is affecting their specific state, county or city; as a result, local TV news viewership has increased significantly.

As we grow closer to the 2020 U.S. presidential election, TV’s role as a trusted source of information will remain vital since TV remains the most influential form of media during a voter’s process of deciding on a candidate.

A Sense of Connection

Since its inception, TV programming has brought people together. Over the decades, fans have excitedly gathered to watch the finales of iconic shows like “M*A*S*H”, “Seinfeld” and “Breaking Bad”; they anxiously awaited answers to questions such as who shot J.R. on “Dallas” (or Mr. Burns on “The Simpsons”); they’ve feverishly debated love triangles from series such as “Gilmore Girls” and “Lost.”

Now, even as most of us are away from friends, family and co-workers, TV is a way in which we can all stay connected (albeit not in person) through virtual “viewing parties, social media discussions and show recommendations.

Finding Comfort

While TV audiences will likely use some of their additional time at home to check out the latest shows currently topping “must-watch” lists, many people will undoubtedly revisit old favorites—shows that remind them of loved ones, less chaotic times or simply ones that they can count on for a laugh. Advertisers, too, should remain cognizant of why reruns can be so valuable for engaging with responsive audiences. In fact, one of the most popular and revisited shows of all time also happens to be one of the highest performing across brands.

Whether it’s to educate, serve as a much-needed form of escapism or remind us that we’re not alone, even during a time like this, TV’s importance has never been more clear.

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