What People Watch articles

Sports news viewing

27 April 2021

Welcome to a new edition of What People Watch, a series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. This week, we look at how the big sports news story of the week has delivered viewing. But first, our regular update on weekly viewing trends.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

Viewing continues to revert towards more seasonal norms, with the most-recent week of consolidated TV-set viewing (week 15) averaging 173 minutes a day. This was almost -20% below the equivalent figure from the lockdown-week in 2020, but was +2% versus the equivalent week of 2019. Live and same-day viewing levels from week 16 2021 also indicate that, when final figures are available, there will be another decline week-on-week.

Unidentified viewing has also been generally showing signs of decline after the end of the most-recent lockdown. Week 15 saw 70 minutes a day of unidentified viewing on average, the lowest figure since late September last year. Should this trend continue in future weeks, we may see unidentified viewing returning to pre-lockdown levels.

Viewing to sports news

Over the previous editions of What People Watch, we have often covered how the extraordinary events of 2020-21 have driven increased viewing to news. This week, a news story of a different kind has dominated parts of the agenda – the attempted launch of a football European Super League. To what extent is it possible to see how the attention on this story has impacted TV viewing?

One measure is to look at the performance of 24-hour sports news channel Sky Sports News. Live and same-day TV-set audiences for the channel were much higher across the day on April 19th and 20th compared to the average of the previous 4 Monday-Tuesdays. This performance was also reflected in some wider metrics, with all-day share of viewing across April 19th-20th more than 3 times the level of the previous 4 weeks, and 3-minute reach over two days more than doubling, to almost 3 million viewers.

There was also some interesting variation in where these audiences came from. Given the geographical locations of the 6 intended Super League clubs, it’s interesting to note that the North West and London regions ranked #1 and #2 in the volume of audience supplied to Sky Sports News across these two days. In the benchmark period, these regions ranked 4th and 3rd respectively. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was fans in these areas who seemed especially keen to be across the latest developments.

It’s not only increased viewing to rolling-news coverage that indicates the interest in this topic. The Monday night coverage of Leeds United vs Liverpool on Sky Sports, including punditry and opinion on the developing story, delivered good audiences – the programme average on Sky Sports Main Event was the channel’s highest-rated Monday game of 2021 to date. With Sky Sports’ coverage usually airing across multiple channels, aggregate match-totals can be harder to calculate, but the indication is that the combined average across Main Event and Sky Sports Premier League again was the highest-rated Monday match of the year for Sky Sports.

All figures are based on live and same-day viewing on a TV-set by Individuals 4+, for all fixtures.

Across an interesting few days for football fans, it’s clear that TV coverage was helping deliver news and drive the conversation.

Programming update

With consolidated 7-day TV set and device-viewing data now available for Saturday, April 17th, we can report updated figures for the funeral coverage of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Aggregate average audience was over 10.8m viewers on 4 screens, based on the programme-averages from live coverage across 7 channels. In the minutes around 3pm, when the national silence was being broadcast, the audience share across these channels was 89% of all viewing.

What People Watch will return with further insights into current viewing behaviour.

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB


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