Nostalgic Viewing Becomes the ‘New Normal’ for TV Viewers

By Danny Clayman, VP Northern Europe, Xandr 

Whether it is setting aside lunchtime breaks from work to watch a critical news update or gathering around a favourite series for light relief, watching TV has become a bigger ‘household activity’ than ever before.

There is a huge breadth of content both live and on-demand and people are exploring all corners of the TV universe to keep themselves and their families entertained. In fact, streaming services have exploded during this time with 68% of UK adults currently subscribed to Netflix, followed by Amazon Prime Video (46%), and Sky (33%) according to Attest’s Media Consumption Report 2020.

And the reason why streaming services are hitting a popular chord? Nostalgic viewing. It is psychologically proven that during a time of crisis humans look for the familiar, and what better way to satisfy this need when you’re locked in your home than turning to comfort TV? Friends in particular, distributed by Warner Bros., has always been a popular choice in the UK with Ofcom stating that Friends was the most-viewed programme on Netflix in Q1 2019 in the UK and the most-streamed overall on all SVOD services, accounting for 2% of total streams, as of March 2019.

What’s impressive about a US sitcom released in the early 90s is that in the years since it has stayed one of the most viewed shows in Europe. Last year’s UK BARB data already showed the longevity of the series being one of the only non-broadcaster streaming viewings ranked in the top 20, at number 12 of household reach. Originally broadcast in 100 countries the nostalgia phenomenon isn’t limited to Europe, in the US, HBO Max recently announced Friends was its ‘number one performing show’.

With new routines and habits, comfort TV brings households together for shared experiences and by tuning into beloved programmes, viewers are able to enjoy light relief and take a break from the environment around them.

Striking a balance

Due to COVID-19, the effects of social distancing have been profound and many outcomes unknown. But with social distancing and some form of ‘lockdown life’ the new norm, content streaming will only increase and it is likely that shows such as Friends will stay top of consumers lists.

Whilst viewer attention is usually fragmented across an increasingly complex media landscape, this new normal has meant people are spending more time than ever focused on their devices. Although consumers are watching old content they are doing it in new ways and advertisers have the opportunity to connect with their consumers like never before by ensuring they are engaging with them on key topics, such as COVID-19, whether that is to offer light relief through a brand video or provide a key service such as a quick delivery in what is a challenging time.

Keeping the consumer front of mind

COVID-19 has reignited the British love of TV, as well as demonstrating the need for digital devices as people are consuming more content than ever before. As viewing spikes, advertisers have a unique opportunity but it is important to remember consumers are turning to nostalgic TV and streaming services to get them through this ‘new normal’ brands look for the balance between being aware of customer needs and ensuring they are providing more than just a product. Premium content has long offered brands a great way to appeal to emotions and offer free valuable content for consumers.

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