What People Watch

What People Watch: Viewing by ethnicity

1 April 2021

Welcome to a new edition of What People Watch, a series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. This week, we look at viewing by different ethnic groups.

As we move through March into April, we have reached the point at which overall weekly viewing trends in the current lockdown can be compared with lockdown from a year ago.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

Calendar-week 11 2021 (March 15th-21st) corresponds to the last full-week prior to the 2020 March lockdown (March 16th-22nd), when TV viewing had already started to rise as viewers tuned in to the latest developments and wanted to understand more about the changes to come. Consolidated 7-day viewing for week 11 2021 was 193 minutes a day, 17 minutes a day lower than last year.

This trend is continued by the indications from the most-recent week. Live and same-day viewing in the first week of lockdown last year (March 23rd-29th) was 209 minutes a day, which is more than half an hour a day higher than the equivalent figure from last week.

This also extends to the levels of unidentified viewing. With levels of around 76 minutes daily over last week, again this is appreciably below the 2020 comparative, 17 minutes lower in this case. For the first time in quite some time, unidentified viewing is down year on year.

With both these metrics, once again we have an illustration of how much of an outlier we saw in 2020 during the early weeks of the pandemic. As the current restrictions start to ease over the coming weeks, and also with good weather arriving across much of the UK, it’s likely that the amount of viewing, of all types, will continue to fall slightly.

Viewing by ethnicity

Sunday, March 21st 2021 was Census Day in the UK, the 10-yearly government survey that captures a snapshot of the UK’s demographics. Largely completed online for the first time, when the data are released they will inform the provision of services for years into the future.

Although BARB will incorporate the census results once available, we also use a range of other sources to make sure that our panel of homes remains nationally representative. These include other government surveys and official forecasts, as well as our own BARB Establishment Survey, which taken together allow us to provide a huge amount of detail about the profile of television viewers.

Cutting the data by the ethnic classification of the home can deliver some interesting insights. Among all Individuals 4+, total TV screen time rose 15% year-on-year in 2020, to 271 mins a day. Within that overall figure, all ethnic groups also saw their total viewing grow by levels between 12% and 25% – this highest increase was delivered by viewers in Black African homes. The chart also demonstrates how increases in unidentified viewing over time are also happening across all ethnic groups.

Another takeaway from the chart is that non-white households generally have lower total levels of viewing. Even accounting for the growth in 2020, the amount of daily viewing in Bangladeshi and Pakistani homes was just over 100 minutes a day lower than in white homes.

Tracking the number of channels that viewers tune into regularly can also illustrate different viewing preferences. Across 2020, the average person tuned into 17 channels on a monthly basis, based on a 3-minute reach. Again, compared to this overall figure we saw a range of results in ethnic homes – from 14 channels a month in Black African homes, to 21 a month in Indian homes.

Combining these two elements, this indicates that viewing in, for example, Indian homes is spread more thinly – a lower amount of overall viewing covering more channels on average – so it’s likely that any given channel will see lower results in these homes. But it can also indicate opportunity – advertisers may be able to consider a wider portfolio of channels when thinking about how to reach these audiences.

What People Watch will return with further insights into current viewing behaviour.

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB


Follow BARB on LinkedIn and Twitter to find out when new editions of What People Watch are released, and for all the latest BARB news.