Beyond Entertainment: How TV Is Helping During COVID-19

Family with young children watching TV on their couch.

Television and COVID-19: for many of us, being stuck at home means finally having time to binge-watch Walking Dead or check out Westworld. But in this difficult time, TV is playing a role far more important that pure entertainment – it’s become a critical platform to help people get informed, stay connected, and remain healthy. Follow along to learn some of the ways that television is stepping up to meet the demands of the crisis.

Providing Information

The Ad Council – famous for such classic ad campaigns as Smokey the Bear and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” – has teamed up with NBC Universal, Walt Disney Television, and ViacomCBS to create a series of PSAs designed to help prevent the spread of the virus and inform high-risk populations of steps they can take to protect themselves. ViacomCBS is also running a campaign, #AloneTogether, featuring selfie videos from celebrities encouraging people to stay home. And for younger viewers, the iconic characters from the Cartoon Network feature in a series of fun PSAs designed to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Helping Kids in a Difficult Time

Speaking of kids, time away from their friends, schools, and activities can be extremely challenging – both for them and their parents. This is why Sesame Street has launched a “Caring for Each Other” initiative featuring online and offline content, as well as resources to learn about health emergencies. Sesame has even created a “virtual playdate,” hosted by Elmo on the popular videoconference platform Zoom, with some very special guest stars. The show is available on all Warner Media networks. Nickelodeon has also launched the #KidsTogether hashtag, featuring original content and even a Kid’s Town Hall with its own lineup of stars.

Community Programming

For many Americans stuck at home, the inability to attend religious services due to social-distancing restrictions is a particularly painful facet of the crisis. Although some religious organizations have taken to streaming online, this option is not available to everyone, especially the elderly and poor. That is why the FCC has authorized a waiver to allow local stations to broadcast their services. This has been particularly important during two recent major religious holidays: Easter and Passover.

Raising Money for Relief Programs

COVID-19 has brought challenges to millions of Americans, from healthcare workers on the front lines to people who have lost their ability to work – and television has stepped up to help. When the 2020 iHeartRadio Music Awards were postponed, just two weeks before airing on Fox, the network found a creative way to help. According to Fox Entertainment CEO Charlie Collier, “The idea was brought that there might be a way to have living room concert.” Featuring stars like Elton John, Billie Eilish, and Tim McGraw performing from the safety of their own homes, the event aired twice and raised more than $10 million for Feeding America and the First Responders Children’s Foundation. And on April 22, BET’s “Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort” special raised over $16 million to support the black community, which has been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

En Español

Spanish speakers in the United States are operating at a dual disadvantage during the crisis: while at a higher risk for contagion, they are also less likely to receive the information they need to stay safe. Fortunately, Univision has launched a series of services, including a dedicated webpage bringing together all of the last Coronavirus news, a daily special broadcast at 3 PM Eastern, a Q&A segment on its morning show “Despierta América,” and a liveblog with latest events as they happen.

As an added benefit, television networks are providing a host of free content to help you weather the crisis. And that includes HBO (#StayHomeBoxOffice), Comcast, AMC Networks, Showtime with a one-month free trial, and FOX with free access to news content. During these trying times, when we are physically apart, it is television that unites us, reaching the largest number of people with entertainment, information, and community assistance.

Being stuck at home with multiple family members streaming entertainment can test the limits of our at-home Wi-Fi networks. For quick hacks and tips to maximize your home internet, check out our related blog post.