Yes, yes one year of COVID… One year of quarantine, lockdowns, curfew, masks, social distancing, click in shop, click away, terms that have never concerned us before. One year of constant fight with an invisible virus, with our emotions, with constrained desires and with governments all around the world that keep taking measures – others stricter and others milder- to contain the pandemic and go back to normality.

Are we closer to the end of it? Do we see the light at the end of the tunnel? There are countries like Israel and New Zealand that give us hope, holding concerts and people not wearing masks anymore. But there are other countries like India and Brazil that suffer the worst of the pandemic during this 3rd wave and need urgent humanitarian need. But even Bill Gates has predicted that we will be done with COVID-19 at the end of 2022. This will depend naturally on the vaccinations and immunity we have built worldwide.

During this pandemic, fortune has been very harsh on sectors such as airlines, hospitality, bars, nightlife, lipsticks (J) and very kind to couriers, food delivery, super markets, pharmaceuticals and oxygen producing companies. But let’s go back to where all this started, one year before in March 2020.

Yes, we were frightened, the only thing similar we have seen was the 2011 “Contagion” movie. On the 13th of March 2020 I remember that our office closed and we all started working remotely. Sales were dropping and there was almost zero demand within the month. Seeing friends, and going out was out of the question. Everything was closed. Roads were desert, even the center of Athens was empty. I recall that whenever a super market delivery arrived, we washed all the products thoroughly and followed a ritual every time.

We self-isolated and the only company we had was our living partner (if any) and the Television that was switched- on almost all day. We were watching horrified on TV the deaths in Italy and the coffins being buried in mass graves. We were bombarded by state TV campaigns how to wash our hands, how to wear a mask and how to avoid crowds and social gatherings. Even the moto of the campaigns was #stayathome to stop the spread of the virus. Therefore, one can rightfully assume that the more we stayed in, the more we watched TV.

Governments did not need police force or monitoring of the text messages to understand how people behaved during the pandemic. Mr. Chardalias, the State Secretary for Civil Protection, had at his hands the perfect tool to understand whether or not we were law abiding citizens. And this is nothing else but TV viewership. A simple extraction from Nielsen proves whether people were staying in or not. But let’s take a look together.

You can see that in March and April 2020 Daily TV Viewing for Total Individuals skyrocketed to unprecedented levels, since it was historically the 1st lockdown in Greece due to COVID-19.

If we add now to the previous chart the line of Daily TV Viewing for 2021(line in red) and we compare the two years, we can see that Jan & Feb 2020 have a much smaller TV viewership since no lockdown was imposed at the time.

But what really matters here, and is more than obvious, is that from March and on, that both years have had lockdowns, TV viewing is much lower in 2021. This means that people stay in a lot less, perhaps because they are tired of the situation, perhaps because they are not that scared anymore, but anyway this explains clearly the negative score we have this year vs last one in COVID cases & deaths.

If we take as an example the comparison of a random date- let’s say the 4th of April for both years, we can see something almost extraordinary. Daily viewing was this year 19% less than last year and COVID cases have increased on the same date by 17%, a very similar % to the drop of viewership.

So are we law abiding citizens? The answer is that when we share ownership and responsibility, we abide by the rules as we did in the 1st wave of the pandemic in 2020. This reminded me the Olympic Games of 2004 that everyone respected the Olympic drive lanes, because we felt part of a greater cause. But when we feel that measures are imposed, as in the 2nd wave of the pandemic in 2021, combined with the fatigue and disappointment from the persistence of the virus we lose sight.

Anyway, the truth is that I am not here to answer that. The purpose of this post is different. It aims to showcase that TV viewing reflects the behavior of a population and that TV monitoring can be a very useful tool for brands, individuals and shareholders.

My advice?  Keep TV close and your media specialist even closer!

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