Stay-At-Home Winners include ‘Trolls,’ HORSE and Cereal

It’s a weird time in the television world. How weird? A backyard basketball game of HORSE was a big winner for ESPN and advertising for cereal went through the roof.

Maybe not as surprising was that, with movie theaters closed, the new film Trolls World Tour was a big hit with families stuck at home.

“This was a big weekend for firsts with a first ever digital major studio movie release and new efforts by ESPN to re-engage live sports enthusiasts, said Jeffrey Silverman, director of data science and analytics at Samba TV.

“As COVID-19 continues to impact our lives it is clear that every aspect of entertainment and marketing, from a singing troll to a game of HORSE, is seeking to reinvent itself to meet the moment,” Silverman said.

According to Samba TV, Universal’s Trolls World Tour with Justin Timberlake premiered in more than 1 million homes from Friday to Sunday. The original Trolls film earned $340 million at the box office in 2015. The performance of the sequel more than doubled the entire first week’s digital viewing of Sonic the Hedgehog, which went on demand March 31 after six weeks in theaters.

Meanwhile, in the silent world of sports, ESPN, which would rather be showing NBA basketball, instead televised a game of HORSE played by a collection of NBA stars, WNBA players, and retired hoopers.

Home- and driveway-bound competitors included Chris Paul, Trae Young, Tameka Catchings, Zach LaVine, Allie Quigley, Mike Conley Jr., Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce.

There might have been some quibbles about production quality, but the game drew more than 1 million households, according to Samba TV, up more than 600% from the viewership at the same time the previous Sunday evening.

Troll’s blew away all on-demand competition this weekend as more than one million homes tuned in, paid for, and streamed Universal’s feel good family sequel showcasing the significant demand for fresh, first run content from families entering the second full month of social distancing isolation,“ he said. “ESPN also scored this weekend with their efforts to bring back some version of live sports with their remote HORSE competition."

You can’t have TV without advertising, and one category that’s spending is cereal, which may not be just for breakfast anymore.

“Unsurprisingly, this month people are stockpiling ‘shelf-stable food,” MediaRadar noted in a blog post.

That’s got companies like General Mills and Kellogg’s spending on TV.

In March, breakfast foods advertising spend was $11.3 million per week, up 13% from February, according to MediaRadar. Ad spending for breakfast products in March was $53 million, up 19% compared to the average month in 2019.

Among the brands boosting spending were Rice Krispies, up 76%, Honey Bunches of Oats, up 46% and Cheerios was up 40%. Pop-Tarts were also up 29%.

MediaRadar said that more than 90% of the ad dollars spent in this category so far this year have been spent on TV. So maybe there’s life in the business after all.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.