UK linear TV viewing remains strong

Linear TV viewing in the UK matched the record level it set in 2010, with commercial TV increasing its share of total viewing to 64 per cent in 2011, according to Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK.

The average viewer watched 4 hours, 2 minutes of linear TV a day in 2011 (28 hours, 14 minutes a week), according to new figures from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB).

According to Thinkbox, this strong performance underlines viewers’ preference for watching TV as it is broadcast and on a TV set whenever possible, and indicates the many new ways to watch TV via other screens such as laptops, tablets and smartphones are growing, and a welcome solution to out-of-home viewing, but they are not included in BARB’s figures and are not impacting on linear viewing.

Commercial TV channels (i.e. non-BBC channels) were responsible for maintaining the record viewing level, accounting for 64 per cent of all linear TV viewing, an increase of 1.3 per cent points on 2010. For the younger 16-34 audience, this rises to 72 per cent.

During 2011, the average person watched 18 hours, 11 minutes of commercial TV a week (2 hours, 36 minutes a day), an increase of 22 minutes a week on 2010. In the last ten years, commercial TV viewing has increased by over 3 hours, 30 minutes a week (31 minutes a day).

Thinkbox predicts that total linear TV viewing levels will now stabilise after a sustained period of record growth. This growth has been caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Technology innovations (such as digital TV recorders, HD and 3D) that enhance the TV experience and magnetise viewers to TV sets;
  • Greater choice of TV to watch as more households switch to digital TV (97 per cent of homes, according to the BARB Establishment Survey Q3 2011);
  • 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 (source: Decipher/Thinkbox);
  • Better measurement of TV viewing following the launch of an updated TV measurement system in January 2010, which more accurately captures viewing on second TV sets and on-demand TV viewed on TV sets in-home within seven days of broadcast;
  • Excellent TV programming and a wide variety of channels which cater for all tastes
  • The economic recession encouraging people to stay in more.

As for additional, non-TV set viewing, the BARB figures do not include TV viewed on devices other than TV sets. BARB has been monitoring viewing on devices other than TV sets since 2005. Its data suggests that there is an additional 1.2 per cent of TV viewing via other devices, 2.9 per cent for 16-34 year olds.

In terms of ‘time-shifted’ viewing, according to BARB, 90.6 per cent of the TV watched in the UK during 2011 was watched live, as it was broadcast. Non-live, ‘time-shifted’ viewing accounted for 9.4 per cent of the UK’s TV consumption during 2011, up from 7.6 per cent in 2010 due to more households now owning a digital television recorder (DTR) such as Sky+ or Freeview+. 50 per cent of UK households now own a DTR.

In households that own DTRs, 84.7 per cent was watched live and 15.3 per cent viewed time-shifted within 7 days.  This level of time-shifting has been stable since the first DTRs were released ten years ago.

Thinkbox points out that 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 2011 were up 2.6 per cent on 2010, and have grown by 19.6 per cent over the last five years to a new record high. The average viewer watched 47 ads a day during 2011.

According to Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox’s Managing Director, the figures explain why so many tech companies want to join the TV industry. “Many companies are flocking to launch new TV services or social media services that feed off people’s love affair with TV. It is obvious that people want to watch TV programmes on the best screen in the home if they can and 2012 will bring more opportunities to do that with the sale of connected TVs and more catch-up TV services to the TV set. And alongside that there is now a wide variety of personal screens to watch TV on which make TV even more convenient; tablets are really delivering an excellent mobile TV experience,” she noted.

“TV continues to be the most effective form of advertising there is, and the instant responses that second screens enable is making it even more so,” she concluded.

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