We’ve officially crossed the one-year mark since lockdown when life as we knew it suddenly changed. We’ve also been through different stages of quarantine that seem like a lifetime ago, and whether you jumped on the banana bread-making train, tie-dye sweatsuits phase, or Tiger King frenzy, there’s one thing we all can admit to doing: watching comedy TV shows.
Maybe it was the comfort of re-watching feel-good TV that you already knew the ending to, or maybe you lost interest in keeping up with new releases. Whatever the motivation was, nostalgic comedy viewership spiked in 2020. Nielsen reports a 30% increase from 2019 in minutes clocked watching Friends, while lots of people threw it way back with reruns of The Andy Griffith Show up 29%. One of the comedies to see the most change year over year was Family Matters which saw a huge spike in demand. Viewership for the classic 90s comedy saw a 392% increase from the previous year.
The world was in need of a good laugh last year, but comedy viewing in general was down 9% YoY, meaning when people wanted funny entertainment, they turned to the classics. Friends, Family Matters, the Golden Girls, and Two and a Half Men, combined, accounted for more than 234 billion viewing minutes throughout the year.
Comedy viewers also come in different shapes and sizes so to speak. Streamers and traditional TV viewers alike enjoy a good laugh. In 2020, The Office had more than 57 billion minutes of viewing time streamed on Netflix. It also still attracts the traditional TV crowd clocking in more than 30 billion minutes.
Although exclusivity may seem appealing for networks or streaming services, Nielsen’s data actually reports shows that are available in more places increases total their viewership.
“So in that way, broadcasters shouldn’t shy away from possible syndication deals simply because a program might also be available elsewhere,” Nielsen reports. “These additions, in turn, would then benefit advertisers as well.”
This increase in viewers watching nostalgic content shows that good comedy is timeless, whether it’s as old as I Love Lucy or something more recent like The Office, viewers will keep going back to the classics.