Nielsen TV ratings and Top Advertisers During Covid Pandemic

While watching the Forest Gump CBS Sunday night movie during the Covid-19 pandemic, it was notated that almost every commercial break included one or two drug company advertisements. Considering that the outbreak might benefit the drug companies as people sit at home anxious about the circumstances surrounding the unknown disease and possibly searching for a remedy to calm their fears, Popcorn Press & Media, Inc decided to do some research on how TV ratings and ad dollars are going during the breakout.

According to a Variety online article written a month and a half ago at the start of the quarantine, it was estimated that staying at home could drive up TV viewing by as much as 60% compared to previous quarantine viewing habits.

The Nielsen ratings numbers from a few weeks ago showed CBS and TV viewing seemed to be winning during the time spent at home. For the week of April 27, the top ten ratings winners except for two shows on Fox, were CBS shows including Young Sheldon, 60 Minutes, Blue Bloods, NCIS-ENC, Survivor, Magnum P.I., FBI: Most Wanted, and FBI-ENC. The Fox shows ranking number 6 and 10 were The Masked Singer and 911.

The top rating for Young Sheldon, a 6.2, isn’t a huge rating number compared to when Prime TV was at it’s heyday, for example like in the ’70’s when “Charlie’s Angels finished fifth in Nielsen ratings in the spring of 1977 with an average 26.0 rating,” according to Wikipedia. An article in the Hollywood Reporter from November 2019 stated that Young Sheldon was a top winner in ratings with a 1.2 among adults 18-49. So the Variety writers made a pretty good estimate.

So what about all those drug ads on CBS prime time and which advertising category is doing the best during the outbreak? A Harvard Health Publishing article posted in 2017 stated “Drug marketing is a big business, and companies are willing to spend a lot of money to offer you an easy solution to a health problem you may or may not have. From 2012 to 2015, yearly spending on prescription drug advertising in all media outlets (except digital) rose from $3.2 billion to $5.2 billion, and that figure is expected to only go up.”

A post in January of 2019 from a site called Ars Technica posted a headline, “Big Pharma shells out $20B each year to schmooze docs, $6B on drug ads.”

In a March 2020 article in the Washington Post it was stated that “Spending on Facebook mobile ads alone by pharmaceutical and health-care brands reached nearly a billion dollars in 2019, nearly tripling over two years, according to Pathmatics, an advertising analytics company.”

And most recently in a March 2020 article on a pink sheet on Pharma intelligence a title declared, “TV Drug Advertising Spend Rising, But Few Brands Provide Pricing Info.” So it’s not specific exactly how much pharmaceutical money is being spent nationally on TV ads during this pandemic, but it’s clear there has been a big uptick.

In a January 2020 post on the website Statista it stated the top advertisers spending the most dollars were in the following order.


• Progressive


•Turbo Tax

•State Farm

•Liberty Mutual

•AT&T Wireless


•Lincoln Motor Company

•Amazon Prime.

So, it remains to be seen how the ad dollars will fall once the pandemic is over, but it seems the companies with the biggest pockets are the ones most likely to survive.