What People Watch articles

What People Watch: Lockdown viewing summary

21 July 2020
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Welcome to the last weekly edition of What People Watch, a series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. This week’s edition is a lockdown viewing summary, reassessing how viewing to different genres has evolved over this time, as well as looking at the most-watched programmes for the period.

With lockdown easing and UK viewing habits returning to more normal levels, What People Watch will be moving away from a weekly publication schedule. We will, of course, still publish should there be an interesting event, or significant change in viewing habits, to comment on.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

For the week ending July 12th (calendar week 28), consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels was down eight minutes compared to the previous week, at 183 minutes a day. As has been the case almost exclusively throughout lockdown, viewing remained higher than the same week of 2019, this week being 3.1% up. This is the closest viewing has come to 2019 levels during lockdown, apart from week 22 when 2020 viewing levels dipped below the same week from 2019.

Unidentified viewing was also down week-on-week, falling by seven minutes to 75 minutes a day. This is 61% higher than the same week in 2019. Unidentified viewing includes all types of TV set viewing that BARB cannot identify, including viewing to SVOD or online video services and gaming. Router meters will give us more insight into which types of activity and services are driving this increased level of unidentified viewing; we expect initial router meter data next year.

The preliminary live and same-day viewing figures for week ending July 19th (week 29) indicate that we may see a slight fall versus week 28 when consolidated 7-day data are available, but we still expect this figure to be higher than week 29 in 2019.

Lockdown viewing by genre

In the fifth edition of What People Watch, we considered how viewing to different genres of programming had changed with the introduction of lockdown. Now that we are reaching a point where lockdown is easing for most of the UK, we can revisit this topic and consider the impact of the full lockdown period on viewing to different genres.

The red lines on the chart highlight week 12 when lockdown was introduced and week 25 when news of the easing of lockdown began to break and Premier League football restarted. The cessation and recommencement of professional sport has been one of the bigger stories of lockdown that has translated into a stark impact on viewing. In weeks 1-12, sport took an average share of 8% of viewing time. For weeks 13-24, that figure was 1.7%, recovering to 9.5% for weeks 25-28. The cancellation of Euro 2020 will be mitigated to some degree by extended club football seasons, but sport is unlikely to see the bi-annual spike in viewing share we would normally expect in an even-numbered year.

News and weather is the other genre to have seen a significant impact from Covid-19. Naturally the country turned to television broadcasts to understand how the crisis was evolving and what the impact on their lives might be. The genre recorded its highest share of viewing in weeks 12 (22.3%) and 13 (22.4%) as lockdown measures moved from advisory to compulsory and the country shut down. As the chart shows, that share of viewing narrowed somewhat as lockdown wore on. Nevertheless, the news share level remained high, with no week since lockdown recording a share below 14.1%, against an average of 12.3% during weeks 1-12 and just 10.8% during the whole of 2019.

Of the other genres, music scored notable successes in week 16 during lockdown and week 26 after lockdown eased. This is visible as small spikes in the “other” genre. The former was driven by BBC1’s One World: Together at Home concert, which saw artists including Elton John play from home in tribute to health workers. It attracted an average audience of 5.7m, giving the music genre a 1.9% share that week. Week 26 saw the genre achieve an even greater share of 2.6%, driven by BBC re-runs from past Glastonbury Festivals during the week that the 2020 festival should have been taking place.

Programming focus: news dominates lockdown

Considering specific channel audiences, the Prime Ministerial statement on May 10th was by far the most-watched single channel broadcast of lockdown with an average audience of 18.7m, beating even the address by the Queen on April 5th that attracted 14m, both on BBC 1. These events achieved 27.6m and 24.3m respectively when we add audiences from other channels. When we look at the top 100 single channel broadcasts during this period (weeks 12-27 2020), 21 were news broadcasts, not counting specific weather programmes. Only Coronation Street had more broadcasts in the top 100, with 46. During the same period in 2019, no news broadcast was in the top 100.

The top programmes for weeks 12-27 (taking just the top-rated broadcast per programme title) shows that the nation hasn’t strayed too far from its favourite programming. Britain’s Got Talent, Antiques Roadshow and Coronation Street feature in both the 2020 and 2019 top broadcast lists for the period, supplemented by drama series and event television, from Covid-19-related broadcasts in 2020 to the Women’s World Cup and Eurovision in 2019.

Top 15 unique broadcasts weeks 12-27

2020Average audience (000s)2019Average audience (000s)
Prime Minister’s Statement (BBC 1)18,753Line of Duty (BBC 1)12,138
BBC News Special (BBC 1)14,612Britain's Got Talent (ITV)10,168
An Address by HM Queen (BBC 1)14,037Women's World Cup: ENG v USA (BBC 1)8,865
Britain's Got Talent (ITV)10,851Coronation Street (ITV)7,592
Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway (ITV)10,609The Bay (ITV)7,318
The Salisbury Poisonings (BBC 1)10,021The Eurovision Song Contest (BBC 1)7,231
Quiz (ITV)8,796Killing Eve (BBC 1)6,624
BBC News at Six (BBC 1)8,778Countryfile (BBC 1)6,564
Coronation Street (ITV)8,015Emmerdale (ITV)6,548
Antiques Roadshow (BBC 1)7,846The Widow (ITV)6,532
MasterChef (BBC 1)7,793Gentleman Jack (BBC 1)6,483
BBC Weekend News (BBC 1)7,257Weather for the Week Ahead (BBC 1)6,464
Beat the Chasers (ITV)7,082Antiques Roadshow (BBC 1)6,423
Van der Valk (ITV)7,078Baptiste (BBC 1)6,361
EastEnders (BBC 1) 7,037Shetland (BBC 1)6,266
Source: BARB, individuals 4+. Consolidated 7-day TV set audiences.

We hope that you have enjoyed reading What People Watch during lockdown.

Doug Whelpdale, Insights Manager, BARB

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