UK viewers see record number of TV ads

24 January 2012

LONDON: Consumers in the UK watched a record number of TV commercials last year, as the medium's popular appeal remained resilient overall, new figures show.

Data from Thinkbox, the trade body, and BARB, the measurement group, revealed that the average Briton saw 47 ads per day in 2011, up 2.6% year on year and 19.6% during the past five years.

The typical audience member watched TV for four hours and two minutes a day in 2011, or 28 hours and 14 minutes a week, the research added.

As this matched the high watermark set in 2010, Thinkbox suggested that playing content on laptops, smartphones and tablets – a pastime not assessed in the study – was "not impacting linear viewing".

Within the wider total, commercial channels held a 64% share of viewing time, an expansion of 1.3 percentage points compared with 2010, and hitting 72% among 16–34 year olds.

More specifically, the average consumer spent 18 hours and 11 minutes watching commercial stations each week, an increase of 22 minutes year on year, and of 3.5 hours in the last decade.

The Thinkbox/BARB analysis also found that 90.6% of TV content was enjoyed live in 2011. "Time-shifted" viewing took a 9.4% share, up from 7.6% over the previous 12 months.

One reason for this trend was the rising uptake of digital television recorders, with 50% of UK households now possessing access to these services, such as through Sky+ or Freeview+ set-top boxes.

Looking only at residences that had this technology at their disposal, the share taken by time-shifted viewing rose to 15.3% per week, largely "stable" over the last ten years, the analysis stated.

Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox's managing director, said: "These 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."

Thinkbox predicted linear TV viewing levels would "stabilise", aided by the digital switchover and the roll out of high-definition, 3D and web-connected devices by firms like Apple, as well as the recession-led habit of staying in to save money.

Additional insights provided by BARB showed that watching TV on devices other than TV sets increases the total viewing time by 1.2%, rising to 2.9% for 16–34 year olds.

Data sourced from Thinkbox; additional content by Warc staff