Nathan Downer, co-anchor of CTV News Toronto

ThinkTV is a Canadian media industry advocacy group dedicated to promoting commercial television. Rogers, Bell, Corus, CBC and Quebecor execs all sit on their board of directors.

They do a lot of research valued by ad agencies. Their report this week shows what Canadians are watching during this time of isolation at home.

The answer, to no one’s surprise, is news. As I’ve been tracking on overnight data reports the past week or so, the evening and late night local and national newscasts, as well as the various news channel ratings, are soaring.

Here, comparing the weeks of March 18, 2019 and March 16, 2020, among adults 25-54 across Canada, is by how much:

  • All Day: +12%
  • Daytime: +26%
  • 6p – 9p: +23%
  • Prime: +2%
  • Late Night: -4%

That massive lift in daytime is mainly due to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s daily, 11:15 a.m. ET updates on government policy changes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This past Tuesday, March 31, for example, those morning reports drew 1,867,000 viewers in English Canada alone on CBC News Network (493,000), CTV (456,000), CTV News Channel (302,000), Global (301,000), as part of CP24 “Dayside AM” (196,000) and on the main CBC network (119,000).

And if you didn’t want to hear from the PM, you switched over to Citytv and The Price is Right Tuesday from 11a.m. – 12 (453,000).


The Canadian all-news specialty networks, according to the thinkTV report, are up a whopping 300 per cent among adults 25-54 from year-go levels.

The surge in the supper hour local newscasts is led by the CTV Evening News, which Monday was tracked at 2,304,000 viewers and Tuesday night drew an estimated 2,264,000 viewers! Even Global National swelled to 905,000 and 884,000 those same nights, with CBC’s The National topping 600,000 some nights the week before. ThinkTV charts the AMA rise in evening newscasts, year to year for that same week in March, at 84 per cent! The 11 p.m. national newscasts, including The CTV National News (topping 1.6 million some nights), are up 40 per cent in the same survey.

Prime’s modest conventional TV gain at 2 per cent for the week, as thinkTV pointed out, was in large part due to the wipe out in sports programming. (The sports blackout also likely accounts for the slight decline in late night viewing.) With no March Madness or end of season runs in the NHL and NBA, as well as the shut down of Major League Baseball (home openers were set to air this week), TSN and Sportsnet are now specialty also-rans. Taking up the slack, however, are big gains being made elsewhere in specialty, including on History where The Curse of Oak Island drew an estimated 801,000 overnight viewers Sunday.

Conventional Canadian network prime time numbers may decrease further as they struggle to patch in programming to make up for import shortages. They also likely face more domestic prime time program shutdowns such as what happened to Global’s Big Brother Canada. Yanking that one show leaves a big three-nights-a-week dent in Global’s schedule.

As for what sheltering Canadians want to watch now in Prime, the biggest jump according to the thinkTV survey is in comedy programming, up 18 per cent year-to-year. That was borne out Tuesday on CBC with overnight jumps for both Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience. There is very little gain in reality show viewing (too silly in hard times?) and horror is down six per cent — unless you count the horror show on the news.

For more on thinkTV, follow this link to where the full report can be downloaded.

1 Comment

  1. Alicia Ottenbreit Reply

    As a cordcutter, I was pleased that CBC Gem made CBC News Network free for the duration of this pandemic plus I can get my local provincial daily press conferences on the Regina feed. The kids and I have been watching Global National every night because it gets posted on YouTube. I much prefer Global’s evening news to CBC’s. CBC is too Ontario-centric

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