What People Watch articles

What People Watch: Viewing by region

26 May 2020

Welcome to What People Watch, a new series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. In this week’s edition, we look at the regional differences in television viewing before and during lockdown in the UK.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

For the week ending May 17th (calendar week 20), consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels continued to be high, at 199 minutes per day. As anticipated, this was stable versus week 19 (also 199 minutes). In this ninth week of lockdown in the UK, viewing to BARB-reported channels remains 19% higher than for the same week last year.

Unidentified viewing for week 20 was 86 minutes a day, also stable compared to the previous week (85 mins).

Preliminary live and same-day viewing figures for the week-ending May 24th (calendar week 21) indicate that viewing to BARB-reported channels has been a bit lower, tracking at 173 minutes per day. On the same live and same-day basis, week 20 was 11 minutes per day higher at 184 minutes, so we may see the final consolidated 7-day figures for week 21 be slightly lower than the 199 minutes of week 20. Unidentified viewing for week 21 remains at similar levels, 84 minutes per day.

Consolidated 7-day TV set viewing by region

This week we are focusing on the regional differences in the levels of TV set usage in the UK.

The chart above shows the average daily minutes of consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels for the UK as a whole, and for the individual regions. Viewing has grown by 9% during lockdown versus the previous average for the UK overall. The regions have seen differing levels of growth – although all regions are watching more television than before.

There has been no change at the top of the rankings when looking at the average daily minutes viewed. The two regions with the highest levels of television viewing, NE & Cumbria and Scotland, are still ranked #1 and #2 during lockdown, with both seeing their television viewing increasing between 8-10%.

The dotted line shows the percentage change in viewing for each region. The growth is highest in the East Midlands, where viewing is up 14% in lockdown. London has seen the second-highest level of growth in viewing, up 13%, but it remains the region of the UK with the lowest number of minutes viewed.

Unidentified TV set viewing by region

We can also chart the regional changes in unidentified viewing. This includes all viewing to non-BARB-reported channels, DVD box-sets, gaming and viewing to SVOD services and online platforms on a TV set.

Once again, the UK as a whole has seen a growth in unidentified viewing during lockdown (up 51%), as have all the regions and, partly driven by the lower starting point, percentage changes are higher than for viewing to BARB-reported channels.

Looking at the average daily minutes of unidentified viewing, the NE & Cumbria region again takes top place overall, with Wales in the #2 position, both before and during lockdown. Scotland, which was #3 in unidentified viewing before lockdown, has dropped to #4 during lockdown as the growth in the Yorkshire & Lincolnshire region has pushed the level of unidentified viewing here past Scotland.

The South East region has seen the greatest percentage change in unidentified viewing during lockdown, currently up 61% versus the pre-lockdown level, although in terms of the number of minutes viewed, the South East ranks ninth out of 14 regions.

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

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB

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