What People Watch

What People Watch: Update on non-TV device viewing

21 October 2020

Welcome to a new edition of What People Watch, a series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. In the third edition of What People Watch we looked at how non-TV device viewing was faring during the early part of national lockdown. In this edition, we update these figures to show the latest trends and we also look at the current levels of total TV screentime.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels
Weekly viewing

Since our last update, viewing to linear TV channels has been tracking at roughly year-ago levels, with viewing increasing through September and October in line with seasonal expectations. Consolidated 7-day viewing for week 41 (the week-ending October 11th) was 182 minutes a day, on par with last year (184 minutes). Live and same-day viewing for week 42 was the highest it’s been since July, a good indication that viewing will continue its upward trend. This will be influenced by the seasonal factors, but may also reflect the impact of wider local restrictions on people’s leisure time. Unidentified viewing for recent weeks remains stable, at 73 minutes per day for week 41.

Viewing on non-TV devices
Device viewing

In January-February 2020, viewing to BARB-reported BVOD services on PCs, tablets and smartphones was tracking at higher levels than the same months of 2019. Although this trend continued from March-May, growth over 2019 was smaller, indicating that as more people spent time at home, less viewing was happening on non-TV devices. This is also shown by the fact that the minutes’ watched on a smartphone (a key device for viewing out-of-home) made up a lower proportion of the total in these months. Across June and July, we saw a year-on-year decline in non-TV device viewing for the first time in 2020. As well as the developing trend of lower viewing during lockdown, this drop is largely due to the absence of ITV’s Love Island from the summer 2020 schedules. This show is a leading driver of non-TV device minutes, particularly among younger demographics. This effect can also be seen in the fact that, when viewing in Jan/Feb 2020 was much higher than last year, this coincided with the debut of the winter version of the show.

Across August and September, 2020 has edged ahead again, and the increasing number of minutes viewed in September also reflects the fact that autumn-season programming began on many services. There has also been a slight rebound in the proportion of minutes delivered by smartphones in September, although not yet back at the levels of pre-lockdown.

Total TV set use
Monthly usage

Total TV set usage, incorporating viewing to BARB-reported channels, unidentified viewing and viewing to BARB-reported Non-Linear services was 242 minutes a day in September. This was slightly down from 245 minutes in August, but was 8% higher than September 2019. Once again, total TV set usage outpaces year-ago levels, as it has each month since March. Growth is slowing however, as August was 11% up year-on-year, and at the peak of full lockdown April was 33% higher than the year before. For the first time since the start of lockdown, linear TV viewing was down slightly year-on-year, at 172 mins daily compared to 174 mins in Sept 2019, although as seen in the weekly chart above, levels in October are expected to be higher.

The re-introduction of local restrictions across large parts of the UK may once again start to influence these trends, whether through viewers’ choice of TV channel, time spent watching TV, or in the amount of viewing taking place on a PC, tablet or smartphone. As always, BARB will be able to measure these changes.

Jeremy Martin, Communications Manager, BARB

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