Channel 4 reveals results of Coronavirus outbreak impact study

Category: News Release
  • 44% of young viewers are watching even more TV
  • 82% of 16-34s trust TV channels for information on COVID-19
  • 8 in 10 consumers want brands to continue advertising

New research released by Channel 4 today reveals an upsurge in youth viewing and trust in TV, as well as insight into what consumers want to see from brands in this current time of crisis.

The unique deep-dive viewer study finds that Trust in TV and consumption are both on the rise among 16-34 year olds, with TV by far the most trusted source of information at this time among young people. 82% of this age group say they trust TV compared to 63% for newspapers and just 41% for social media, where 64% say they have read or seen fake news about Covid-19.

The study reveals that young people understand TV channels are heavily regulated and must adhere to strict reporting guidelines and they praise TV channels for being well-established mediums, having successfully built a strong reputation for accurate and unbiased news reporting.

Last week Channel 4’s Evening News programme doubled its audience aged 16-34 compared to the same week in 2019.

The study also finds that almost half (44%) of 16-34 year old viewers are watching more hours of TV, rising to 93% watching the same or more TV.

As the youngest-skewing PSB, Channel 4 is currently experiencing the largest growth in viewing among 16-34s, with last week experiencing 38% year-on-year growth.

Young people have been increasingly turning to the TV as a method of distraction and entertainment and Channel 4 has been responding to those audience needs, evidenced by programming such as Gogglebox, Derry Girls, First Dates, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Last Leg being frequently mentioned by respondents.

On Friday, the return of Friday Night Dinner attracted an average overnight audience of  2.4 million viewers and the biggest share of young viewers for any comedy series from any commercial broadcaster in over a decade (40.6%).

Gogglebox’s average overnight audience has increased by +21% this year compared to all episodes in 2019 and following time shifted viewing, Friday’s episode is currently consolidating to an audience of over 4.9m - its best performance since 2016.

This week’s Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up To Cancer pulled its biggest ever overnight audience averaging over 4.4 million viewers and a sizeable 39.6% share of young viewers.

Boxset viewing is also seeing increased viewing during this time across all age groups with almost 1 in 5 bingeing on box-sets more so than usual and younger viewers are 56% more likely to be bingeing series compared to the average adult.

All 4 achieved its biggest day of viewing ever on Saturday (28th March), a 10% increase on its previous highest performing day last year and across last week it attracted the highest number of views in a single week in its history.

Martin Greenbank, Head of Advertising Research and Development, Channel 4 said: “Using our own consumer insight panels is a cornerstone in understanding what our audience thinks, does and feels. This new research really gets under the skin of how our viewers are adapting to these challenging times, through qualitative findings that go deep into the ‘why’, as well as the ‘what’ is changing in their behaviour. Young viewers in particular are placing their trust in TV over any other source of information, finding comfort in programming at a time of crisis when they’re watching significantly more TV.”

Viewers want brands to continue advertising where possible

The study also finds that 8 in 10 consumers want brands to be advertising, where possible, throughout this time of social isolation and 57% welcome more relevant ads.

Over half of viewers (57%) would like brands to adjust their messaging to better reflect the current circumstances but almost half (49%) wouldn’t want the majority of ads to be Coronavirus related. 23% are happy for brands to continue advertising as planned.

6 in 10 (62%) viewers say they feel more positive towards brands that consider their messaging during this time.

The study finds that young viewers feel particularly passionately in response to the following statements:

  • 96% of 16-34 year olds agree that “Brands need to support their customers during this difficult time.”
  • 69% of 16-34s agree that “Brands should be offering light relief in their advertising.”

Whilst among all adults:

  • 83% agree that “Brands should be making the public aware of what they can do to help.”
  • 88% agree that “Brands should be doing what they can to help our NHS.”  

Supermarket brands are the most frequently mentioned for getting their advertising messages right at this time, with Tesco garnering significant praise from customers. Aldi, Brewdog and Morrisons were amongst other brands that customers commended for this.

Qualitative research shows that viewers feel that advertising offers some normality and helps with purchase decisions during this time, whilst reminding them of things to look forward to once the current restrictions have eased.

Channel 4’s full research exploring viewers’ trust in the news and other information sources; consumer moods and attitudes; changing consumer behaviour and the role of brands can be viewed here


Notes to Editors


The research is based on a mix of qualitative and quantitative data gathered from two of Channel 4’s research communities – the 4Youth Community of 16-24 year old viewers and the Core4 Community of All 4 registered users.

Core4 Community: 1,407 Core4 community members contributed in total - (1,211 in Wave 1 exploring viewers’ trust in the news and other information sources; consumer moods and attitudes; and changing consumer behaviour + 760 in Wave 2, The Role of Brands) – with the sample weighted to reflect a Channel 4 linear profile. Fieldwork dates are as follows: Wave 1, 20th – 26th March and Wave 2, 30th – 1st April.

4Youth Community: 104 16-24s from the 4Youth Community contributed to fieldwork that took place between 20th – 24th March 2020.