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What People Watch: Changes in viewing by social grade

8 June 2020

Welcome to What People Watch, a new series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. In this week’s edition, we investigate changing viewing levels during lockdown by social grade.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

For the week ending May 31st (calendar week 22), consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels was 176 minutes per day, 12 minutes per day lower than last week. For the first time since lockdown began, viewing to BARB-reported channels was back to the same levels as the corresponding week in 2019.

Unidentified viewing for week 22 was 77 minutes a day, the lowest since full lockdown began.

Preliminary live and same-day viewing figures for the week-ending June 7th (calendar week 23) indicate that we may see a return to slightly higher viewing levels once the data are consolidated. Live and same-day viewing to BARB-reported channels was 176 minutes a day in week 23, 14 minutes a day higher than relevant figure from the week before. This means that once the timeshift viewing is added, the final data will be higher than the current level. Unidentified viewing is also showing a similar pattern, up slightly in week 23 compared to week 22.

Changes in lockdown viewing by social grade

During lockdown, we have examined how television viewing has changed across a number of demographic categories. This week, we look at the change in viewing levels at different times of the day by social grade (as defined by the NRS).

Although overall viewing levels have increased for all adults (dark blue bar) during lockdown, there has been variation among adults from different social grades at different times of the day.

C1/C2 adults are the drivers of change in almost all dayparts, delivering the greatest proportional increases in lockdown viewing at all times except the evening peak. The performance of C1/C2 adults also has the greatest influence on the overall percentage change, as this is the biggest group by volume. Given that the graph shows percentage changes, increases for any group do not always indicate the largest volume of audience delivered in each daypart.

For an overall 0600-2429 daypart, viewing by AB adults is the only classification that under-indexes versus the all adults average, but for this group there are times of the day where they out-perform. Lockdown viewing by AB adults has grown at a faster rate than the all adults average during the peak daypart, and also slightly faster during early-peak, showing that it is not only the lower-rated times of day that have seen viewing increases. Percentage changes for all groups in the early-peak and peak hours are lower because this is where viewing is already high, so the potential for growth is lower. It is worth noting though that all times of day have seen an increase in viewing, even at times of day when people would have been at home pre-lockdown.

Daytime viewing (0900-1729) is one of the dayparts that has seen the largest increase in lockdown viewing by all adults (+12.3%), with AB adults just behind this average at +12.1%. Digging into these data further shows that between the morning hours of 0900-1200, AB adults are actually the main drivers of the increase, up +27.0%, at a time when the all adults average is +21.5%. The growth in AB adults’ viewing remains in line with the all adults average between 1200-1500; it is only at the end of the daytime hours that their viewing drops to a slightly lower increase than that of the other socio-demographic groups.

The other daypart which has seen large percentage increases in the level of viewing among all adults is in the post-peak hours. Perhaps because some people no longer need to get up early in the morning to commute and/or do the school-run during lockdown means they can watch television later in the evening.

May summary

In What People Watch edition 7, we reported that consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels in April – the first full month of lockdown in the UK – was 211 minutes a day. We can now report that the figure for May 2020 is 192 minutes a day. Although this is a slight decline on April, this figure for May 2020 is 11% higher than the equivalent figure for May 2019 (173 minutes). In terms of total TV set usage (which includes unidentified viewing and viewing to BARB-reported BVOD services on TV sets), the figure for May 2020 was 281 minutes a day. Again, this is a drop from April (306 minutes), but still high enough to be the second-highest month since BARB started using its current definition of unidentified viewing in 2013.

The top programmes for the month, based on consolidated 7-day TV set viewing across four screens, were led by the Prime Ministerial broadcast on 10th May, which averaged 19.0m viewers across four screens on BBC1 (the top-rated individual broadcast), but aggregated to over 27.6m across all seven channels that broadcast it. Other programmes in the top ten for the month (using only the top-rated broadcast per programme title), included the BBC1 news special immediately following the PM’s broadcast, and editions of Britain’s Got Talent, Coronation Street and Emmerdale, as well as VE Day coverage and two further news bulletins. So, a combination of special-event and topical programming that reflects the current situation, plus a range of regular big-hitters that shows some viewing habits don’t change.

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB

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