TV viewing remained at record level in 2011

Thinkbox has announced that linear TV viewing figures in the UK for 2011 equalled the record high set in 2010. The average viewer, it was revealed, watched four hours and two minutes of linear TV per day in 2011, equating to 28 hours and 14 minutes per week.

Based on figures from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), this strong performance underlines viewers’ preference for watching TV as it is broadcast and on a TV set whenever possible. The many new ways to watch TV via other screens such as laptops, tablets and smartphones are growing and provide a welcome solution to out of home viewing, but they are not included in the BARB figures and are not impacting on linear viewing.

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

During 2011, the average person watched 18 hours, 11 minutes of commercial TV a week (two 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 three hours, 30 minutes a week (31 minutes a day).

Thinkbox predicts total linear TV viewing levels will now stabilise after the sustained period of record growth which 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.

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 there is an additional 1.2 per cent of TV viewing via other devices, 2.9 per cent for 16-34 year olds.*

‘Time-shifted’ viewing

According to BARB, 90.6 per cent of TV watched in the UK during 2011 was watched live. Non-live, or ‘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 of content was watched live and 15.3 per cent viewed time-shifted within seven days. This level of time-shifting has been stable since the first DTRs were released ten years ago.

Commercial impacts

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.

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