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Icy Winter Storms Heat Up U.S. TV Viewing
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Icy Winter Storms Heat Up U.S. TV Viewing

There are more ways of measuring winter storms than taking a ruler into an open field when the snow stops. Looking at TV ratings in the U.S., Nielsen has calculated that the storm of January 10-13, 2011 was the most impactful storm in recent history. The nationwide blizzards and snowstorms didn’t just deposit record-breaking amounts of snow and ice across the country, they also deposited unusually large numbers of viewers, especially kids and teens, in front of their TV sets.

Total national television viewing during the storm increased by 8% versus the prior year, about a third higher than the average increase in viewing from the last four major storms.

The growth in TV viewers during this storm came mostly from viewing by kids and teens staying home from school. Viewing by children 2-11 was up by 18%, and teens were up by 15%.

The largest growth in audience occurred in the Southeast, which saw a 16% lift overall and increases of 34% for kids and 18% for teens. Since this is a region that isn’t used to dealing with snow, it’s likely that children in this area didn’t have the clothes or equipment to go play outdoors.

Other regions also saw substantial increases in viewing, especially from kids or teens. In fact, the Pacific region was the only part of the country not to experience a spike in viewing during this storm. The breadth of this storm was the key reason that it resulted in such a large increase in TV viewing, more than previous winter storms which affected mostly the Northeastern part of the country.

Winter Storm Impact on TV Viewing
Age Group Jan 11 vs. Jan 10

% increase

East Central Northeast Pacific Southeast Southwest South Central
2+ 8% 8% 7% 2% 16% 6% 7%
2-11 18% 15% 20% -2% 34% 7% 29%
12-17 15% 22% 14% 4% 18% 20% 13%
18-49 5% 1% 3% 0% 16% 2% 2%
50+ 8% 12% 6% 4% 11% 8% 6%
Source: The Nielsen Company