What People Watch articles

What People Watch: Live vs. on-demand viewing on non-TV devices

6 July 2020
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Welcome to What People Watch, a series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. In this week’s edition, we look at how both live and on-demand viewing on non-TV devices have changed during lockdown.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

For the week ending June 28th (calendar week 26), consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels was down slightly compared to the previous week, to 182 minutes a day. As has been the case throughout lockdown, viewing remained higher than the same week of 2019, this week being +11% up.

Unidentified viewing for the week was also down slightly week-on-week, at 75 minutes a day.

The preliminary live and same-day viewing figures for week ending July 5th (week 27) indicate that we may see slight gains versus week 26 when consolidated 7-day data are available. On a like-for-like basis, live viewing to BARB-reported channels was around the same levels we saw in weeks 24 and 25, so likely to increase to similar levels after seven days.

Viewing on non-TV devices: live vs on-demand

In the third edition of What People Watch, we examined how the early weeks of lockdown had affected viewing on non-TV devices, with a breakdown for each device type. This week, we look again at non-TV devices and investigate how the proportions of live and on-demand viewing have evolved during the course of lockdown.

The total amount of viewing on non-TV devices (PCs/laptops, tablets and smartphones) has declined as the lockdown has continued, as shown by the height of the bars in chart above. This is driven by a number of factors, including more viewing happening on TV sets at home as viewers choose the biggest available screen, and the likelihood that fewer viewers are away from home watching a non-TV device. The total number of minutes viewed in May 2020 was -12% lower than in pre-lockdown February. There has been a particular drop in smartphone viewing, a key device for watching while commuting, down -27% in May compared to February.

There has also been a shift in the type of viewing on non-TV devices, which has contributed to the overall reduction in viewing on these devices. Our census data show whether the content being viewed on a non-TV device is watched live or on-demand. While viewing of on-demand content on non-TV devices has been stable, with May’s total down just -3% on February, live viewing on devices declined -30% over the same period. This has meant that live viewing as a proportion of all non-TV device viewing has declined from 34% in January and February to 27% in May.

A key driver of the decline in live viewing was the loss of sporting events since the start of lockdown. For example, live viewing of Sky Sports channels on non-TV devices fell to around 10% of Sky Go’s total live viewing on these devices in May, having comprised around 50% of February’s total. With sports tournaments starting to return to screens in June, early data indicate that we will see live viewing on non-TV devices increase again. Figures for the week ending June 21st show that there was a +51% increase in live viewing across all tagged BVOD services on non-TV devices compared with the previous week, greatly helped by the return of Premier League football to our screens.

Doug Whelpdale, Insights Manager, BARB

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