TV viewing levels "stabilise" in UK

16 August 2012

LONDON: Television viewing levels are starting to "stabilise" in the UK after recent strong growth, a trend that was at least partly linked to the financial crisis, a study has revealed.

Data from Thinkbox, the trade body, and BARB, the measurement firm, showed the average consumer spent four hours and one minute in front of the TV per day during the first half of 2012, off by two minutes on an annual basis, but up by 16 minutes in the last five years.

Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox's managing director, said: "There are signs linear viewing levels will stabilise around the four hour mark after the sustained period of record growth."

"We'd be surprised if there was further growth in total linear viewing as hopefully the economy will improve and we'll leave the house more - plus more people now have on-demand fully integrated on their TV sets and the stimulus of digital switchover is drawing to a close."

The amount of time the typical audience member dedicated to commercial television in the opening six months of 2012 rose by a minute per day from the equivalent timeframe in 2011, reaching two hours and 36 minutes.

Within this, ratings for affluent ABC1 adults remained flat on two hours seven minutes, while men cut back by one minute, to two hours 33 minutes. In contrast, 16–34 year olds were up by 60 seconds, to two hours nine minutes.

When discussing ads watched at normal speed, an estimated 491bn commercials were seen between January and June, a leap of 1.6% year on year, and representing 47 spots each day per person.

Overall, 90% of all TV consumption in the first half of 2012 occurred live, and just 10% was "time-shifted", although the latter figure increased by one percentage point annually.

More specifically, among the 51% of households with digital television recorders, the share held by timeshifted material climbed to 15.9%, a lift of 0.3 percentage points.

Some 47% of programming enjoyed in this way was played back on the day as the original transmission, the analysis added.

Ad-funded stations were also responsible for 67% of linear TV consumption, rising to 72% for 16–34 year olds. A 94% majority of the potential audience watch such channels weekly or more, and 99% do so monthly.

When assessing the impact of screens like laptops, tablets and smartphones, BARB reported that viewing times increased by 1.2%, an uptick which hit 2.9% for 16–34 year olds.

Data sourced from Thinkbox; additional content by Warc staff