What People Watch articles

What People Watch: April viewing summary

11 May 2020
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Welcome to What People Watch, a new series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. This week’s edition features a round-up of viewing in the full lockdown month of April 2020.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

Firstly, looking at our weekly tracker of viewing levels, for the week ending May 3rd (calendar week 18), viewing to BARB-reported channels saw an increase of 15 minutes a day versus week 17. Consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels was 212 minutes a day on average, 35 minutes a day higher than the same week of 2019.

After a decline in week 17, unidentified viewing rose again in week 18, to 92 minutes a day, consistent with the levels we have seen throughout lockdown. Data for week 19 indicate a slight drop. Differences in the pattern of unidentified viewing are relatively consistent; in the weeks where we have seen a drop, each day has a lower amount of unidentified viewing, it is not focussed on any specific period.

The preliminary figures for live and same-day TV set viewing for week 19 (the week ending May 10th) are also included on the chart with a dashed line. Like unidentified viewing for the same week, levels are lower than in week 18. On a like-for-like basis, the level of live and same-day viewing in week 19 was about the same as in week 17, so consolidated viewing may well end up around the same final figure. The consolidated figure will be included in the next edition of What People Watch.

April in review

With the lockdown in place throughout April, it is no surprise that consolidated 7-day TV set viewing for the month was high. The average number of minutes viewed daily in April was over 3 and half hours per person, at 211 minutes. This was the highest monthly level since January 2018 (213 minutes). April 2020 was the highest level of April viewing to BARB-reported channels that we have seen since 2014 (218 minutes).

BARB also measures unidentified viewing and viewing to BARB-reported BVOD services on TV sets. Adding these to consolidated 7-day TV set viewing gives a total TV set usage figure for April of 306 minutes a day, or over five hours. This is the highest level of TV set usage that BARB has recorded since we began using the current definition of unidentified viewing in 2013.

This increase in TV set usage is for all age demographics. Every age group has seen viewing levels increase for each type of activity in April 2020 versus April 2019. The greatest increase in viewing to BARB-reported channels was among viewers aged 55-64. In April 2020, these viewers watched 71 minutes a day more on average than in April last year, an increase of 27%. Viewers aged 45-54 also saw a similar level of growth, up 22% from 202 minutes a day to 246 minutes.

Among younger groups, where unidentified viewing was already approaching the level of viewing to BARB-reported channels, this pattern has continued, although viewing to BARB-reported channels has also increased. Unidentified viewing on a TV set among 25-34s grew by almost 64 minutes a day on average, and unidentified viewing by viewers aged 16-24 also went up by almost an hour.

Looking at the changes in viewing by time of day, we once again see growth across all times of the day. The biggest increase overall was from 1200-1459, when viewing was 42% higher. However, elevated viewing levels are not only caused by people being at home at times when they would usually be at work or school – viewing in the evening and late at night is also higher. From 1800-2059 there was a 14% increase in April 2020, and a 11% increase between 2100-2359. As we saw in last week’s What People Watch, higher levels of co-viewing are one of the factors pushing viewing up at all times of day.

Programming focus

The Prime Ministerial broadcast on May 10th drew another large audience on TV sets. Based on live and same-day figures for the minutes of the speech, the average audience was over 27.6 million viewers, an almost 90% viewing share. This was across seven channels, including the relevant +1 channels. This was slightly behind the viewing level of the previous broadcast announcing the lockdown, but still a very high audience.

What People Watch will return with more insights into UK viewing behaviour.

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB

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