What People Watch: Daytime viewing changes

6 April 2020
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Last week, we launched What People Watch, a new series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. In this week’s edition of What People Watch, we continue to investigate how the coronavirus pandemic is changing television viewing behaviour.

TV set viewing to Barb-reported channels

For the week ending March 29th 2020 (calendar week 13), consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to Barb-reported channels was 226 minutes a day on average, an increase of 16 minutes a day versus the previous week. This is a continuation of the trend of the last few weeks, where 2020 viewing levels have increased compared with the same period in 2019. Week 13 this year is 53 minutes a day higher than week 13 in 2019. At 3 hours and 46 minutes a day, we are now seeing TV set viewing levels that are greater than the annual peak levels of Christmas. TV set viewing has not been this high in a non-Christmas week since February 2018, during which it was at 231 minutes a daily on average, thanks to the Beast from the East.

The level of unidentified viewing (all types of TV set use that aren’t viewing to a Barb-reported channel or service) also continues to grow. Week 13 saw more growth for this figure, up to 93 minutes per day, an increase of 46 minutes compared with week 13 in 2019.

Included on the chart this week are preliminary figures for week 14 (the week ending April 5th), based on live and same-day TV set viewing only (dashed line). Again, both types of viewing remain high, and it’s important to note that the TV set viewing figure will increase once consolidated viewing is included. On a like-for-like comparison of live and same-day TV set viewing, week 14 is slightly behind the levels of week 13, but remains much higher than the seasonal average. This chart will be updated with final figures for week 14 in the next edition.

Daytime viewing changes

With the majority of the UK population staying at home, the availability of people to watch television when they would usually be away from home has led to changes in viewing patterns. The chart above shows time of day viewing for weekdays; the solid lines are Monday 23rd March-Friday 3rd April inclusive; the dotted lines are the weekdays from all previous weeks of 2020.

In the last two weeks, TV set viewing to Barb-reported channels was in line with the year-to-date average until about 0730, but then becomes consistently higher for the rest of the day. The evening peak of weekday viewing has also been pushed slightly earlier, to 2000-2100. This is influenced by the scheduling of special coronavirus programming on the major terrestrial channels, not least the huge uplift provided by the Prime Ministerial broadcast (Monday 23rd March) covered in last week’s article.

Unidentified viewing has also been consistently higher throughout the weekdays in the last two weeks versus the year-to-date average. Whereas previously it saw increased growth from 1500, likely due to children coming home from school, the last two weeks have seen a more consistent rate of growth from 0900 to 1700. There is also a notable peak from 0900-0930 in the last two weeks. We can’t say for sure what the cause of this increase is, but it seems likely that it is driven by PE with Joe, an exercise class for children which is streamed live on YouTube in this half-hour.

Programming focus*

UK broadcasters have made changes to their schedules during the lockdown period. Channel 4 has launched a new cookery series: Jamie: Keep Cooking and Carry On. Since starting on March 23rd, this series has already reached more than 9.7m individuals.

Topical shows such as Channel 5’s Jeremy Vine and BBC1’s Question Time may have lost their studio audiences, but have increased their viewing audiences. Jeremy Vine is up by more than +17% in the last two weeks versus the year-to-date average for the programme, while Question Time has also benefited from the greater audience availability in its new earlier timeslot, with an increase in its average audience of more than 2.3m to 3.5m, compared with the 2020 average of 1.2m.

Earlier in the day, ITV’s Good Morning Britain has also gained in audience in the last two weeks, having extended its run-time after Lorraine and Loose Women suspended production. In weeks 13 and 14, Good Morning Britain has seen a +38% increase to over 1.0m viewers on a TV set. It is interesting to note that its audience share has also increased, so the uplift in viewing is not solely a function of the greater audience availability.

As we saw in last week’s article, news channels and content are a particular destination for viewers at the moment. Sky News’s Virus Outbreak: Global Emergency has already reached 3.6m television viewers.

Another late change to the schedules was the addition of the Queen’s address on Sunday 5th April at 20:00. Broadcast across seven channels, live and same-day data indicate that 24.1m people watched the speech on a TV set. This is based on the five minutes of the broadcast from 20:00-20:04 and includes the relevant +1 channels where applicable. The consolidated 7-day TV set audience for this broadcast will be available next week.

As always, we will report interesting insights on What People Watch in future editions.

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, Barb

*All figures in this section are averages through week 14 2020 (week-ending 5th April), using consolidated 7-day TV set viewing figures where possible, but including live and same-day TV set figures where necessary.

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