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What People Watch: Viewing on non-TV devices

15 April 2020
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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 continue to investigate how the coronavirus pandemic is changing television viewing behaviour, with a focus on how it has affected viewing on non-TV devices.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

For the week ending April 5th 2020 (calendar week 14), consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels was 219 minutes a day on average. This is a slight decline (-7 mins daily) on the previous week, although viewing remains at a very high level compared to 2019.

The level of unidentified viewing (all types of TV set use that aren’t viewing to a BARB-reported channel or service) has also stabilised this week, at 96 minutes per day. Week 14 saw only a slight change week-on-week, but remains significantly higher year-on-year.

The preliminary figures for week 15 (the week ending April 12th) are also included on the chart, based on live and same-day TV set viewing only (dashed line). Again, both types of viewing remain high, and 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 15 is behind the levels of week 14, but remains much higher than the seasonal average. This chart will be updated with final figures for week 15 in the next edition.

Viewing on non-TV devices

One of BARB’s data sources is device-based census data, which are collected whenever anyone in the UK watches a broadcaster video-on-demand (BVOD) service on a PC, tablet or smartphone. These data give us an insight into how people’s viewing on devices is changing during the pandemic.

The chart above shows that viewing on non-TV devices totalled 5.4bn minutes in March 2020, an increase of 500m minutes versus the previous year. However, compared to the Jan-Feb 2020 average (6.0bn minutes), March 2020 was lower. This drop is against the seasonal trend, as in 2019 non-TV device viewing in March was higher than the Jan-Feb average of that year.

There are a number of factors that could have influenced this. Viewing to each device type was lower in March compared to Jan-Feb, with smartphones down the most, declining to 25% of the total minutes from 29%. This reflects that smartphones are less often the device of choice for viewers at home, where they will usually have access to a larger screen. In addition, the decline for March 2020 versus Jan-Feb is likely to be influenced by the fact that the first winter series of ITV2’s Love Island aired earlier in the year. This programme is a key driver for device viewing, and it will have contributed to the high level of minutes in the earlier months.

With viewing on a TV set increasing, the proportion of total viewing minutes contributed by non-TV devices has fallen slightly. For Jan-Feb 2020, these devices contributed an additional 1.7% on top of TV set viewing; for March 2020, this was 1.4%. So, levels of device viewing are still tracking above year-ago levels, but have not grown as fast as TV set viewing.

Viewing on non-TV devices by time of day

The chart above shows the viewing on non-TV devices (combined live and on-demand) by clock-hour for the week of 23rd-29th March. This is compared to the viewing for the relevant week of 2019 (25th-31st March 2019).

Overall, viewing levels are higher in the 2020 week, and we can also see differences in the viewing patterns. In 2019, a morning peak in the 0700-0759 hour for both tablet and smartphone, influenced by breakfast/commute viewing, is followed by a steady decline in the subsequent hours. In 2020, we see less of an obvious peak in this hour, and the viewing stabilising at a higher level for a longer period, as people stay at home with access to their devices. PC viewing also demonstrates a faster growth rate during the daytime hours in 2020, another reflection of people being at home.

The evening peaks for all devices are similar to the 2019 pattern, but for both tablet and smartphone viewing, this is the one time of the day where the 2020 levels are consistently lower than 2019, providing another indication of how viewing is migrating to the biggest-available screen, especially in the timeslots where television viewing has been focussed on news coverage.

It is important to remember that TV set viewing levels are much greater than device viewing at all times of day. In the peak 2200-2259 hour in this chart, device-viewing remains 1.4% of the levels seen on a TV in March 2020, compared with 1.7% in the same time slot in March 2019.

Programming focus

Further data are now available for the Queen’s address to the nation on 5th April. Consolidated 7-day TV set viewing now stands at 24.3m, an increase of 175k viewers over the live figure. This is based on the five minutes between 2000-2004 on all seven channels that broadcast the address, including +1 channels where relevant. An average audience of more than 256k viewers also watched the address on PCs, tablets and smartphones either live, or in the first week after transmission.

The Easter weekend is traditionally a time when viewing levels fluctuate and a preliminary look at viewing figures for this past weekend show the lockdown impact. From Friday-Monday, live and same-day viewing to BARB-reported channels on a TV set averaged 202 minutes a day. This was 46 minutes a day higher than Easter last year, and is similar to the levels seen during Easter 2018 and 2017 (205 and 202 minutes respectively). Considering that both Easter 2019 and Easter 2020 saw unseasonably warm weather across the UK, then we can see that the stay-at-home message this year has driven television viewing up. On each of the four days, viewing to BARB-reported channels was around 30% higher than the Easter weekend in 2019.

Consolidated 7-day TV set viewing figures for Easter 2020 will be covered in the next edition, along with other insights on What People Watch.

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB

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