UKTV reports record numbers
January 16, 2024
By Colin Mann
Multichannel programmer UKTV has achieved record growth in 2023 for the network and its free streaming service UKTV Play. UKTV’s SOCI (Share of Commercial Impacts) reached 8.81 per cent, the highest ever for the seven channel network. The broadcaster also grew share by 5 per cent to a record 4.92 per cent, up from 4.70 per cent last year, and it supercharged growth of UKTV Play with direct-to-consumer views increasing by 56 per cent year-on-year, dwarfing the 27 per cent growth the service enjoyed in 2022.
“It’s been an extremely challenging year for the TV advertising market and the downward spiral has been much longer and deeper than many predicted,” said Marcus Arthur, UKTV CEO. “However, UKTV is weathering this storm well, achieving record SOCI and streaming growth last year as we continue to transform the business into a digital first and audience-led company.”
“UKTV has grown its network share by 5 per cent and UKTV Play has increased views by 56 per cent, fuelled by over 1,000 hours of new content joining the service. Views, active users and views per active user have all been up year-on-year across every month in 2023, with titles such as Signora Volpe, Bangers & Cash: Restoring Classics, Sister Boniface Mysteries and Annika helping to drive growth. Six out of our seven linear channels have enjoyed share growth and UKTV Originals continue to go from strength to strength, with 10 out of the top 20 shows on the network being originations. We’ve also celebrated awards success with Dave winning Channel of the Year at the Broadcast Digital Awards,” added Arthur.
“2024 will be another tough year for commercial broadcasters with the advertising recession continuing to bite, but I’m confident that UKTV will remain on its growth trajectory and I’m looking forward to uniting UKTV’s free TV and digital portfolio under new masterbrand U. Launching in the summer, UKTV Play will transition to U and our free-to-air linear channels will become U&Dave, U&DRAMA, U&W and U&YESTERDAY, better enabling us to leverage the brands within UKTV’s real estate as we make ourselves fit for a digital future,” he concluded.
UKTV Play saw growth across all metrics last year, with direct-to-consumer views growing by 56 per cent and monetisable views by 48 per cent. The new UKTV Play 3.0 app was rolled out across numerous platforms and devices including Google TV, Apple iOS, Android, Amazon Fire and Freeview and all platforms witnessed year-on-year growth, most notably Amazon Fire which was up 71 per cent.
The Play catalogue now boasts over 7000 hours of content. Drama has been a key driver of growth for the service with shows such as Signora Volpe, Mrs Sidhu Investigates, Sister Boniface Mysteries, Berlin Station, Atlantic Crossing, Annika, The Brokenwood Mysteries, Madam Secretary and Smother all featuring in the top 20 highest rating episodes on the service.
UKTV also launched four UKTV Play branded FAST channels in 2023 – UKTV Play Heroes, UKTV Play Laughs, UKTV Play Full Throttle and UKTV Play Uncovered – on Samsung TV, Amazon Freevee and Pluto TV, and aims to launch FAST channels directly on UKTV Play in the coming year.
Channels and Content
Drama, W, Yesterday, Alibi, Gold and Eden all grew share in 2023 with a rich mix of original and acquired content helping to bolster growth.
“The prolonged advertising downturn has increased pressure on budgets and our response has been to remain agile across the content supply, mixing impactful originations and high value acquired boxsets alongside much-loved BBC classics,” advised Richarda Watsham, UKTV’s Chief Creative Officer and Global Director of Acquisitions BBC Studios/UKTV.
Annika returned to Alibi for a second series and became the highest rating programme on the channel and across the UKTV network last year, watched by 1.29 million. It helped propel Alibi to 16 per cent share growth in 2023, aided by a strong slate of content including UK premiere CSI: Vegas and UKTV Original The Diplomat.
Yesterday benefitted from increased content investment with UKTV Originals accounting for nine out of 10 of the channel’s top shows (Secrets of the London Underground, Bangers & Cash, Bangers & Cash: Restoring Classics, Hornby: A Model World, Classic Car Garage, The Architecture the Railways Built, Retro Electro Workshop, Abandoned Engineering, Tony Robinson’s Marvellous Machines), resulting in 8 per cent share growth for the channel.
Dave added to its silverware, winning Channel of the Year at the Broadcast Digital Awards. Judges called Dave “a brilliant jewel in the UKTV crown” and noted the channel’s commitment to paving the way with new comedy talent and diversity and inclusion. Meet the Richardsons was the highest rating show on the channel in 2023, with World’s Most Dangerous Roads, QI XL, David Mitchell’s Outsiders and Alan Davies: As Yet Untitled rounding out the top five. Dave also enjoyed BAFTA recognition with nominations for Big Zuu’s Big Eats and Meet the Richardsons.
Drama enjoyed another stellar year averaging a 1.63 per cent share (up 3 per cent year-on-year) and Mrs Sidhu Investigates and Sister Boniface Mysteries were the stand-out shows on the channel, both watched by over 1.2 million viewers.
Gold (+13 per cent), W (+16 per cent) and Eden (+31 per cent) also achieved share growth last year. Blackadder: The Lost Pilot was Gold’s most successful show watched by 659k viewers, closely followed by Blood Actually: A Murder They Hope Mystery Alison & Larry: Billericay to Barry, Hancock’s Half Hour in Colour and Only Fools and Horses. W achieved its best ever share of 0.55 per cent with UKTV Original Gemma and Gorka: Life Behind the Lens featuring in the top five shows on the channel.
“Getting further upstream on creative partnerships is more important than ever and I’m pleased to see the likes of Sister Boniface Mysteries, Mrs Sidhu Investigates and Signora Volpe achieving big numbers for UKTV Play and Drama,” added Watsham. “Annika’s spectacular performance on pay channel Alibi, the success of Yesterday’s originations and Dave’s Channel of the Year win have all helped fuel UKTV’s growth too. Seeing the brilliant talent elevated through Rosie Jones’s Disability Comedy Extravaganza break through onto other mainstream shows has been a particular highlight. “As we enter 2024, I’m looking forward to working alongside our exceptional indie partners on exciting new content, including our first male-skewing drama for UKTV Play and Dave and the comedy/ reality hybrid Battle in the Box, hosted by a very much in-form Jimmy Carr.”
Social Media Activity
Following a strategic focus on video content, followers to UKTV’s social channels were up 29 per cent year-on-year with views to video content more than doubling to hit an average of 28 million monthly views. Monthly engagements were up 157 per cent to almost 2 million and monthly impressions up 56 per cent at 39 million.
UKTV Play launched on TikTok in March 2023 and quickly attracted a loyal following, surpassing 114k followers and 9.6 million page likes in less than a year. Yesterday followed suit, debuting on TikTok in August in conjunction with Bangers & Cash Live and achieved over 200k views in its first month thanks to exclusive video content from the event.
Dave’s YouTube channel grew views by 149 per cent year-on-year to hit 30 million by doubling down on YouTube shorts. David Mitchell’s Outsiders drove highest performance on the platform, helped by companion series Outsiders: Gone Wild, achieving 2.2 miillion views overall.