New Research: An Insight into the Public’s Broadcast Consumption Throughout Pandemic and Opportunities for PR Professionals

The pandemic has proven beyond doubt the power of both TV and radio when it comes to storytelling. However, many PR professionals are missing key opportunities when it comes to getting coverage for their brand across broadcast media. Broadcast Revolution has now released brand new data, revealing key PR insights, which indicates how the public has been consuming broadcast media during the pandemic, whether PR professionals have reacted quickly enough to the changes, and how audience demographics have shifted with younger people tuning in more than ever. Crucially, the research identifies the vital role that broadcast news has played during the pandemic and will continue to play as we move towards global recovery and beyond.

How Coronavirus Changed the Media Landscape

2020 was the year the British public witnessed everything that constituted ‘normal life’ cease in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet there was one constant presence there to guide and unpack the unprecedented times the world found themselves in: the broadcast media.

From the daily COVID-19 press conferences right through to on-demand entertainment, TV and radio has played a significant and trusted role over the last year, perhaps much more than the British public expected.

Pre-pandemic broadcast measurement explored weekly analysis, such as how many people were tuning in or watching at least once a week. The pandemic moved at such pace that weekly analysis would feel outdated. Broadcast Revolution has analysed the daily consumption of broadcast media and our findings are revealed below.

Broadcast Media in the Pandemic

Broadcast media has never been more important and relevant to everyday life. Outlets such as BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 5 Live, Sky, ITV and regional radio all reported record viewing figures throughout the last year. Anecdotally, there were references to audiences increasing by 60%, with many of us working from home or furloughed.

Broadcast provided a strong medium to discuss complex issues and subjects, meaning that during the pandemic it very quickly assumed a trusted position within the British public on the news affecting them.

National TV – During the pandemic, almost half of the British population (49%)  consumed national BBC TV News every single day without fail. The daily press briefings led into the BBC’s main news bulletins which many stayed on to watch. A further 40% say they consumed national commercial news every single day meaning that in total 89% of the British public were consuming TV national news output every single day without fail. One thing is for sure, the British public has digested more broadcast news content during the pandemic than any point throughout our history.

Regional TV – Early into the pandemic, the BBC announced that it would be making cuts to its regional TV news output based on a target of £125m saving throughout 2020 because of financial pressures resulting from the pandemic itself. However, whilst the BBC’s regional output changed its viewership increased. 34% say that they tuned in for regional news every single day without fail throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, 29% consumed regional commercial TV news every single day throughout the pandemic.

Radio – Radio remains the most widely consumed medium at a global level, and is something which sees a surge in times of crisis. It offers a lifeline for many people – especially those isolating or living alone. People have reported tuning into the radio when they needed some light relief, using it more as a means of entertainment than as a source for serious news. Radio consumption has significantly shot up over the last year – 20% of the British public reported to listen to national BBC radio everyday, whilst 30% listened two to three times a week.

Other – Interestingly, the high statistics of those consuming broadcast media are in stark contrast to the amount of people consuming other forms of content: for example, only 27% of the public consume online versions of newspapers every day, while 63% of people read their news on social media each today – still a high number, but not when compared to the 89% of  people tuning into broadcast.

Young People and Media Consumption

One of the main issues that the media faces, generation after generation, is how to appeal to a new, younger audience. Inevitably, as time goes by, new platforms and trends become popular and the ‘traditional’ way of communicating can quickly become outdated as technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

A key example of this is the enormous upheaval that social media had when it emerged into the world. Suddenly, people were no longer relying on broadcast mediums to get their news, as information was shared on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. As a result, the majority of people – PR professionals included – have concluded that the best way to reach a younger audience is to prioritise social media.

However, our research and data suggests otherwise – and shines another spotlight on an area where many communication professionals are missing a huge opportunity. 68% of parents said that, during the pandemic, their children have increased their viewership of radio and TV.

This shows that, although many PR professionals are quick to recommend social media as a priority platform for targeting a younger audience (and are quick to dismiss broadcast media as being irrelevant and old-fashioned), they might well be missing a trick here.

How PR Professionals Reacted to the Pandemic

Despite the above data, our research shows that PRs are missing out on the huge opportunities available to them through broadcast, having written off terrestrial TV and radio in favour of other channels – particularly in recent years as the range of media outlets available continues to grow and diversify.

When surveyed, 64% PR professionals revealed that they did not deliver regional TV and radio coverage as often as they liked during this period, while 78% said they did not deliver national TV and radio coverage as often as they liked. Furthermore:

  • Just 9% of PRs surveyed said that they have a strong broadcast PR strategy
  • 72% admitted to not being as confident as they’d like in delivering broadcast coverage for their clients

The reality is that the broadcast landscape significantly changed during the pandemic with many outlets moving to get closer to the audience. However, the data shows a clear misunderstanding between where the opportunity lies and the steps being taken to achieve that potential brand exposure.

Every single organisation was impacted by the pandemic which means that every single organisation had a credible voice on this subject. However, these opportunities were not taken.

The data suggests that some PR professionals were unsure and lacked the confidence to pitch directly to broadcast outlets, while others felt fear  to approach TV with news relating to the pandemic. On top of this, newsroom contacts began to work remotely, meaning PR professionals were unable to communicate in their usual ways.

In Conclusion

Broadcast media has never been more important, trusted and relevant than it has during the pandemic. Yet there is clearly a disconnect between the opportunities that broadcast media presents, and the way that PR professionals approach these in their strategies. Could this be down to confidence, fear or missing contacts?

Regardless, with so many more people engaging with these mediums over the past year it seems that many brands are missing a trick by not engaging with the myriad possibilities that TV and radio present.

As we begin to enter the recovery phase of the pandemic, PR professionals need to grasp how broadcast outlets have changed their approach. These changes are here to stay and brands need to ensure that broadcast is no longer thought of an afterthought.