Hunkering down and tuning in

Hunkering down and tuning in

Media consumption is gathering pace as the homebound audience rides out the pandemic

TV viewing time has risen as people stay home during the pandemic. Panumas Sanguanwong
TV viewing time has risen as people stay home during the pandemic. Panumas Sanguanwong

As the masses hunker down and work from home during the coronavirus pandemic, media consumption via TV, apps and social media is gathering pace -- and opening the door for brands to tap in.

Video-on-demand platforms, such as Line TV, Netflix and Viu, have seen viewership rise rapidly. Short-form video app TikTok is gaining momentum. Social media has become the go-to platform for e-commerce.

But while media consumption through TV and digital platforms has skyrocketed, media ad spending doesn't appear to be following the trend. Brands are tightening their budgets amid the unpromising economy, weighed down by the health crisis.

After the pandemic subsides, brands are likely to enter online-merge-offline (OMO) mode. For example, they can present their products via TV and close sales online.

Companies may also choose to live stream presentations on social media in order to lure customers to physical shops or even online stores.

Brands will explore tech to gain customer insight and come up with creative content through mixed media channels as a matter of survival during this difficult time.


In March, when the pandemic took hold, Thais' average TV viewing time per day rose from 4.03 hours early in the month to 4.31, according to Nielsen Media Thailand.

"The quarantine and people working from home resulted in an increase of TV viewing per day in March," said Runchita Srivoravilai, director of Nielsen Media Thailand.

Digital media consumption also surged, from 712 million views a week in early March to 994 million in late March, Ms Runchita said. Live streaming rose at noon, with similar growth in the prime-time slot of 9-10pm.

Despite the rise in media consumption, brands are restricting their ad spending because of weak consumer sentiment and the prospect of an economic recession, she said.

Ad spending in March fell across all media except internet, which saw a 23% year-on-year gain. Overall ad spending in March fell 5% from the same month a year earlier.

Ad service provider Media Intelligence expects overall media ad spending to shrink 15% to 77 billion baht this year, the biggest drop in a decade.

In the first quarter, when the pandemic took hold, overall ad spending dipped 6% year-on-year to 19.8 billion baht, said business director Pawat Ruangdejworachai.

Mindshare Thailand, a marketing and media network, said Thais' average TV viewing time was 2.17 hours per day during April 13-19, up 11% from March 1.

News and entertainment channels gained popularity, said Pathamawan Sathaporn, managing director of Mindshare Thailand. Thairath TV, MCOT HD, Mono29, One 31 and GMM 25 saw growth of 2-3%.

Channels 3 and 7, both popular stations, saw a slight increase in viewership.


"Staying at home gives consumers time to view long video content via Netflix, Viu and Line TV, reducing their stress and allowing them to enjoy free time," Ms Pathamawan said. Brands can leverage these platforms to reach their target audience, she said.

Thais' average TV viewing time per day rose to 4.31 hours in late March. Panumas Sanguanwong

Kanop Supamanop, chief content business officer of Line Thailand, said more Thais are watching Line TV on big screens, driven by the work-from-home trend. In March, Line TV's big-screen views surged 42% from a month earlier.

The Series Y, which depicts romantic relationships between men, gained popularity as viewership grew by five times in March. (The programme is mostly watched by women aged 18-34.) With many children stuck at home, animation viewership rose 33% in March.

In the second half of March, the number of Line TV views grew 24% from February.

Before the outbreak, Thais typically spent an average of 30 minutes to one hour a day on TikTok, a popular platform among Gen Y and Z users. But as the pandemic took hold, their time spent on the platform doubled, with celebrities and Gen X increasing their engagement.

In the US, TikTok has expanded into social commerce by testing a feature that lets users add a shoppable URL to their bio or video, creating an online store where consumers can shop without leaving the app.

The social commerce aspect is not available in Thailand, but TikTok has launched a trial of a live streaming feature here. The first live streaming show was hosted by TV personality Vuthithorn "Woody" Milintachinda, who can interact with the audience in real-time.


Somwalee Limrachtamorn, managing director of Nielsen Thailand, said China has seen social media turn into "mainstream" media as a consequence of the viral outbreak and long lockdown. This could also become a trend in Thailand in the post-pandemic period, she said.

Line TV content is shown on a mobile device. Line TV viewing via big screen rose 42% in March. Pattanapong Hirunard

The pandemic is encouraging merchants to embark on the OMO approach, meant to improve the customer experience and increase engagement in sales activities, Ms Somwalee said.

Augmented reality and virtual reality are likely to be leveraged to scale up the user experience. For example, users can visit virtual showrooms for cars or property to learn more, then stop by the physical sites.

Teerawat Ngamvitayasiri, retail industry lead at Line Thailand, said businesses are shifting from offline to online to offer products and services using new platforms and technologies to reach customers during the pandemic. He suggests brands start undergoing this transformation now.

"They need to reimagine their brand value by utilising online platforms to solve consumer pain points during this crisis in a unique way," Mr Teerawat said.

For example, Peugeot Thailand has used its Line account to let customers buy executive cars online and book a test drive at home without visiting the showroom. It's a demonstration of how "high involvement" products like cars can use the online channel to close sales.


Kanaporn Hutcheson, chief executive of ad agency GreyNJ United, said brands are driven to communicate more with customers during the pandemic. They need technology to assist them in reaching customers through various media channels.

"Brands needs to revisit themselves to find value and open up consumers to their brands," Ms Kanaporn said.

Data will be important because it helps brands understand their clientele better and come up with creative content to set the brand apart, she said.

Pablo Gomez, chief digital officer of consulting firm Kantar in North Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said radio and podcast consumption is gathering momentum in the wake of the outbreak.

"In February, we saw an average increase in radio, online radio and podcast consumption of 10%," Mr Gomez said.

Some 63% of marketers surveyed said they were ready to hike spending on podcasts in the next 12 months, he said.

According to Mr Gomez, brands need to optimise ad spending by establishing synergy between TV and digital ad investment. They should explore different digital channels for product promotions, ranging from online video platforms and social media to voice broadcasting channels.

He said e-commerce engagement will rise after the pandemic and brands need to usher in shoppable ads that combine brand building with "calls to action".

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