Canadians still big on news notifications, indifferent to ‘Zoom TV’

A need for inexpensive entertainment could put TV in a good position for fall, but Mindshare finds that Canadians are indifferent about "Zoom-style" programming.
SNL at home

Canadians’ media consumption continues to go up and up during the pandemic. But with fall TV unclear, economic uncertainty looming and sports seasons up in the air, there’s still many unknowns on what programming will look like in the latter half of the year.

Mindshare Canada’s latest dive into consumer habits during COVID-19 covers not only what Canadians are doing during the pandemic, but also what types of programming could come out of the current situation.

The data was presented by Mindshare’s director of marketing science Laura Donaldson, with the report covering Canadians’ outlooks, media consumption and shopping habits since the start of the pandemic.

Media consumption keeps growing, but Canadians are conservative compared to other nations

Since the very first week of Mindshare’s study waves, it’s clear that Canadians are more tuned into media than ever before. In the first wave, most Canadians said they’d increased their media consumption across every type of media. That trend has only continued.

The biggest increase has been in watching movies; 52% say they’ve increased watching movies at home (up from 19% in the first wave of study). There’s also been a noteworthy increase in activity online (52%, up from 21%), social media (43%, up from 16%), binge-watching shows (42%, up from 15%) and watching live TV (42%, up from 15%). Essentially, all touchpoints have experienced a surge of activity.

Still, Donaldson pointed out, Canadians actually spend less time on all media than Mindshare’s global average. In fact, the only activity Canadians are doing on average more than people in other nations is going outside.

In particular, Donaldson noted, Canadians are using apps less than the global average. She said this is likely because Canadians are used to being cautious about the cost of data, even though several BDUs have removed data caps.

YouTube is the biggest source of entertainment, with close to half of Canadians (49%) spending their time on the platform.

Besides YouTube, Netflix and Facebook are occupying the most of people’s time, at 47% and 45%, respectively. Spotify comes in next at 29%. Topics of choice vary depending on generations, but Gen Z, Gen Y and Gen X are all interested in food, while Boomers remain focused on economic, financial and political news. Gen Z over-indexes on gaming, with more than half saying they are playing games more than they were before COVID, and all four generations are seeking out local news.

Even though Mindshare has been warning for several weeks of news fatigue, Donaldson notes, “We haven’t really changed our behaviour when it comes to accessing news.” In fact, more people have notifications set up for news updates regarding COVID-19 (28%, up from 25%).

The number of Canadians who notice brands with COVID-19 spots has gone up and is now close to half. Many don’t seem to mind, either. Less than one-third of Canadians think there is too much COVID-19 advertising.

Looking at the future of content

Looking at both the short- and mid-term future, there’s potential for a gap in content, especially on TV. Live sports have been suspended and there’s a lack of clarity around how seasons will resume. Production on some summer series was not completed. Fall TV may look drastically different. Mindshare CSO Sarah Thompson outlined some of Canadians’ priorities and realities, and how that could shape content.

For sports, Thompson noted, 34% say they are eager to watch the NHL when it comes back on, and 14% say the NBA. Those are by far the biggest sports on people’s priority lists, with baseball, golf and other sports far behind.

For entertainment content such as late-night, Thompson notes that 50% of Canadians feel indifferent about “Zoom-style programming.” “Indifferent is not really a good thing,” she said, noting that specials such as Saturday Night Live filmed from home had plenty of marketing hype behind them, but only mixed reviews. This could lead to a low production quality fatigue, said Thompson.

Still, a need for inexpensive entertainment presents a good opportunity for television heading into the fall and midseason. She noted comparisons to the last several recessions; more melodramas and successful comedies came out of the 2008 recession, while shows about working-class families like the original One Day at a Time and Roseanne were born out of the 1980′s recession. “Are we going to have more working-class stories hitting the airwaves?” Thompson asked, noting that this is an area to watch.