What People Watch articles

What People Watch: YouTube viewing

2 March 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, after our regular look at viewing levels in lockdown, our featured topic is on the YouTube viewing data that are coming from BARB’s rollout of router meters into our panel of homes.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels


7-day consolidated TV set viewing to linear channels was above 200 minutes per day once again for week 7 2021 (February 15th-21st) at 203 minutes. This marked the seventh week in a row that weekly viewing exceeded this threshold, a longer period of time than during the first lockdown. In fact, the longest period of 2020 continuously above 200 minutes was a six-week period in October and November, so it’s clear that the current January/February lockdown has had another prolonged effect on viewing.

There are indications though that this may be starting to change. Live and same-day viewing for February 22nd-28th (week 8 2021) shows a decline week-on-week, which will likely see the consolidated 7-day data remain below 200 minutes when these are available next week. In an earlier What People Watch we looked at the impact of seasonality on viewing levels, and warmer temperatures and some sunshine in large parts of the UK last week will have influenced the levels of TV viewing. Even when restrictions limit our options, people are keen to get outside when possible.

The levels of unidentified viewing are also showing a similar trend. After reaching as high as 96 minutes a day during week 7, the indications are that week 8 will fall to around 83 minutes a day, the lowest level of unidentified viewing since November.

Viewing to YouTube on a TV set by Children 4-15

BARB is undertaking a rollout of new measurement meters onto its representative panel of homes. One of the benefits of these new router meters is that they give BARB a clearer view of some of the elements that currently make up our unidentified viewing category. This includes the amount of viewing going to subscription video on-demand (SVOD) services and video-sharing platforms. Although the rollout is not yet complete and data are still preliminary, we can share some interesting findings.

The January lockdown saw the return of “PE with Joe” to YouTube, with 20-minute sessions devoted to helping children with physical activity while they are away from school. As new content is added on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays every week we can compare router meter data from these days to Tuesdays and Thursdays to see if this influences the levels of YouTube being watched on a TV set.

The chart above shows the audience of Children aged 4-15 watching YouTube across the day on Monday-Wednesday-Friday versus Tuesday-Thursday for the first six weeks since the return of the sessions. The week-commencing February 22nd is not included, as new content was not uploaded on all three days.

The dark-blue line shows that the minutes between 0900 and 0930 on Mon-Wed-Fri do show an uplift compared to Tuesdays & Thursdays – on average 16,500 more children are watching YouTube on a TV set in this half-hour on these days. Comparable levels between Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursday are more similar both before and after this half-hour.

What is less evident is a larger spike in YouTube usage on a TV set when the sessions go live, something that we saw during the first national lockdown. There may be behavioural explanations for this. As schools have had longer to adapt to lockdown restrictions, and children and parents have also become more familiar with a home-schooling routine, it may be that lessons are starting earlier in the day than before – meaning the opportunity to watch YouTube at 0900 is now lower.

However, it’s interesting to note that there are further extended periods after 9am-9:30am where YouTube viewing on a TV set by children is consistently higher on Mon-Wed-Fri. From around 1100-1230, the gap is almost 22,000 viewers on average, while from 1300-1500 the gap is nearly 26,000 – a 20% increase on the Tuesday-Thursday level. Although we can’t be certain that it is “PE with Joe” that is driving this difference, perhaps children are accessing the sessions then, on the same day as launch, to burn off some energy before lunch and in the afternoons when they may have a gap in their organised timetables.

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

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB


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