Online TV viewing

Viewing through TV player apps

BARB passed an important milestone in September 2015, when it launched the beta version of the TV Player Report. It’s the first joint-industry, audited measure on viewing to online TV.

Since it started appearing on a weekly basis, the TV Player Report has shed light on what’s being watched when viewers turn to popular apps such as All 4, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, Sky Go and UKTV Play. For the first time, we can now report findings from a deeper dive into the data that we publish each week on our website.

And what’s of immediate interest is the fact that tablets and personal computers dominate. Some analysts have been predicting that growth in TV player viewing was going to be driven by people watching on their phones during rush hour but there’s little evidence here to suggest that’s actually happening.

Over 40% of all TV player viewing takes place after 9pm with viewing levels tailing off later than established viewing patterns. 

Only 12% of viewing actually takes place on a smartphone, while less than 10% of viewing takes place between 6 and 10 in the morning. While there’s more viewing during the afternoon/evening rush hour, the steady growth in viewing levels throughout the day is more in keeping with traditional viewing patterns on the TV screen.

The only hint of something slightly different is a bump in viewing on tablets during the morning rush hour. That said, the peak is nowhere near what happens during the evenings and at weekends: Saturday and Sunday are the most popular days for viewing while over 40% of all viewing takes place after 9pm. Interestingly, compared to conventional TV viewing, the peak hours of viewing continue later into the night. Are people watching in bed?

It’s also interesting to note that while Android competes evenly with Apple for sales of smartphones and tablets, the latter is more dominant in our measurement of online TV viewing. Whether it is the nature of the user experience or a reflection of the demographics that own devices from the different platforms, it’s striking that far more online TV viewing comes through Apple’s iOS platform.

Broadly, though, online viewing is clearly a phenomenon still in its infancy. Towards the end of 2015, viewing via TV player apps hit a high point of 855 million minutes during one week. Putting this in context, people spent a grand total of 95.2 billion minutes watching TV programmes on a television set during that same week.

And yes, clearly app viewing will not be evenly spread across the population, as will no doubt be clarified as we derive more granular data. But a glance at the most- watched programmes across the weeks tends to suggest that it won’t be clustered in entirely unexpected ways. App viewing, in other words, isn’t creating new and exotic programming tastes.

There are interesting nuances to be pursued here, though: Made in Chelsea and TOWIE figure far more prominently than they do in conventional ratings. There are also appearances from programmes that haven’t been broadcast as part of a traditional linear schedule. Indeed in recent weeks the top 10 has featured BBC Three programmes such as Cuckoo and Life and Death Row.

The TV Player Report is the first stage of Project Dovetail.