What People Watch articles

Box-set viewing

13 May 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 BARB data can be used to understand box-set viewing. But first, our regular update on the weekly trends.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

The return to a more seasonal pattern continued this week, with consolidated 7-day TV set viewing for week 17 (week-ending May 2nd) at 172 minutes per day. This was 10 minutes a day higher than the previous week, after a couple of weeks of decline. Live and same-day viewing figures for week 18 indicate that when final figures are available, we may see a slight rise again.

Unidentified viewing also followed a similar pattern, increasing to 68 minutes a day in week 17.

With lockdown restrictions also easing in the weeks ahead, we will continue to monitor overall changes in viewing.

Box-set viewing on devices

We know that drama is a key genre driving audiences, and recent weeks have seen strong results for season 6 of BBC’s Line of Duty (see below for consolidated results for the series finale). With all previous seasons of the show being available on BBC iPlayer, what can BARB data tell us about viewing to the whole show?

Looking at viewing on PCs/tablets, we can see that all episodes are contributing to viewing. The chart shows viewing on these devices to Line of Duty in the week-commencing April 26th. Season 6 episodes deliver 45% of the total – with viewers perhaps feeling they have to get up to date before the last linear broadcast on May 2nd.

But that means that the majority of the viewing in this week is to earlier seasons, and it is remarkably evenly spread. Seasons 1-3 do take a slightly larger share, so viewers seem to have gone back a long way to refresh their memories or hunt for clues. They may also be watching for the first time, as these three seasons first aired on BBC Two and may have been missed by some viewers. Expanding the date-range back to March 21st (the launch of season 6 on BBC One) shows a similar pattern – around 40% of the total goes to season 6, and seasons 1-5 range from 10%-13%, with a slight skew towards the first three seasons.

Based on total viewer minutes, across the week of April 26th-May 2nd, 26 of the 50 most-watched programmes on PCs/tablets were episodes of Line of Duty. From the Non-Linear TV-set data that BARB generates to measure programmes that have not had a linear-channel broadcast in the previous 28 days, we see similar results – the earlier Line of Duty episodes are among the leading programmes of the week.

Although this is based on a specific example, BARB measures device-viewing to a wide range of tagged BVOD services, and also has an increasingly large Non-Linear library of assets to track viewing to programmes without an associated linear-channel broadcast. BARB clients can use these data to understand viewing across the whole landscape.

 Programming update

Returning to the season 6 finale, Line of Duty posted very strong figures. Based on consolidated TV-set viewing after 7 days, the average audience was over 15.2 million viewers. Looking back at historic BARB data, this is the highest average audience for a drama (excluding soaps) since 1999. Including viewing on PCs tablets and smartphones takes the 4-screen total for the episode past 15.5 million average viewers after 7 days.

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

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB


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