New technologies help boost TV viewing

UK commercial broadcasters’ marketing body Thinkbox has revealed that live, linear TV viewing figures in the UK for 2010 were the highest since records began. According to new figures from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), in 2010 the average TV viewer watched 28 hours, 15 minutes of live, linear TV a week (4 hours, 2 minutes a day). This is an increase of 2 hours, 4 minutes a week (18 minutes a day) on 2009 and represents an all time high in TV viewing.

According to Thinkbox, the “spectacular performance” has been fuelled by many influences, including the take-up of new TV technologies, on-demand TV services – which lead people back to linear TV – and both the economic and weather climates. Thinkbox predicts that live, linear TV viewing is now likely to have reached its peak.

Commercial TV channels (i.e. non-BBC channels) accounted for 63 per cent of all live, linear TV viewing. During 2010, the average person watched 17 hours, 41 minutes (2 hours, 32 minutes a day) of linear, commercial TV channels a week. This is an increase of 1 hour, 4 minutes a week (9 minutes a day) on 2009. In the last ten years, commercial TV viewing alone has increased by 1 hour, 41 minutes a week (14 minutes a day).

Thinkbox notes that the increase in live, linear TV viewing follows a pattern set in recent years, with a number of factors behind the continued growth:

– An updated TV measurement system, launched in January 2010, which more accurately captures viewing of second TV sets and on-demand TV;
– Greater choice of TV to watch as more households switch to digital TV (93 per cent, according to Ofcom Digital Progress Report Q3 2010);
– New TV technologies (such as digital TV recorders) that enhance the TV experience and magnetise viewers to TV sets;
– On-demand TV services which send people back to the broadcast schedules. 89 per cent of people watch on-demand TV mainly to catch- or keep-up with missed broadcast TV, according to Decipher/Thinkbox figures;
– Excellent TV programming and a wide variety of channels which cater for most tastes – including a World Cup which drew large audiences
– The economic recession encouraging people to stay in more;
– Bad weather conditions at the beginning and end of 2010.

According to Thinkbox, the figures, which do not include TV viewed on devices other than TV sets, underline the primacy of the live TV schedule in the UK. BARB does not currently measure this additional viewing as part of its normal standards, but has been separately monitoring viewing on devices other than TV sets since 2005.  Its data suggests that there is an additional one per cent of TV viewing via other devices, two per cent for 16 to 24 year olds.

BARB figures reveal that non-live, ‘time-shifted’ viewing accounted for 7.6 per cent of the UK’s TV consumption during 2010. In households that own digital television recorders, such as Sky+ or Freeview+, timeshifting represented a larger proportion of TV viewing (14 per cent). This figure has declined from 16 per cent only two years ago. Reasons for this could be a combination of DTRs now spreading beyond early adopters, who tend to use technology more, and the effects of social media which are creating a ‘drive to live’ – encouraging people to watch TV as it is broadcast. The higher share of the DTR universe amongst Virgin and Freeview homes (who tend to watch less time-shifted TV than Sky+ homes) is also a factor.

The increase in commercial viewing has also meant an increase in the number of TV ads viewed. Commercial impacts (the number of ads watched at normal speed) during 2010 were up 5.9 per cent on 2009, and have grown by 21.1 per cent over the last five years to a new record high. The average viewer watched 46 ads a day during 2010 compared to 43 ads in 2009.

Tess Alps, Thinkbox’s CEO, observed that the TV landscape was changing dramatically. “But whatever technology is over the horizon, we are confident that people’s love of TV will remain. Far from threatening TV viewing, almost every new media development – from search and social media to connected TV sets – is boosting TV advertising’s effectiveness,” she said.

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