Britons Stick to 'Live' TV Viewing, Despite Broadband Video

14 August 2008

LONDON: "This is a shaft of very bright light that cuts through any economic gloom," exulted Tess Alps, ceo of TV marketing body Thinkbox, on learning that Britons have not deserted their traditional TV viewing habits in favour of new broadband video catch-up services.

In a statement, Thinkbox said that broadband TV services (the BBC's iPlayer, 4oD,, Sky Player and Demand Five) "seem to be incremental" to the traditional broadcast TV people watched during the January-June period.

Figures compiled by Thinkbox from data supplied by BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board), indicate that viewers watched an average of 3.77 hours of broadcast TV daily, a 2% increase on the five-year average for the period.

"That both broadcast and online TV platforms are growing simultaneously underlines how they fulfil different needs for viewers and that they can co-exist and indeed promote each other," said Thinkbox.

It also claimed that commercial broadcast TV had a "record breaking" H1. Total commercial impacts were up 6% year-on-year, while commercial broadcast viewing is "performing very strongly", up 4% versus the same period last year, helped by factors including poor weather and an increase in digital TV penetration.

But the marketing body's joy may eventually be confined, says Screen Digest analyst VincentLetang, while acknowledging that so far "these [online] services are not cannibalising traditional TV viewing."

Then a qualifying "but" …

"First of all, in terms of the amount of money spent by advertisers [on catch-up TV], it is so small that it doesn't divert from broadcast TV money. The other reason is that in terms of the time spent using online TV services, it is actually very small.

"There is an apparent paradox or dilemma around how audiences can be up and ad revenues down, but one reason that explains it is because demand for TV advertising is flat," Letang opined.

"This means there has been an increase in the supply of ads in the market - and that means prices dropping. You could say that eyeballs have never been cheaper in the last twenty years," he added.

"Clients are looking at cutting costs, not expanding in this market," he added. "So it is actually not that great news that commercial impacts are up as this means that prices are down."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff