The Viewing Report

Demography on three screens

12 May 2020

When BARB viewing figures are reported in the media, they’re usually the total audience for the biggest Christmas Day shows or a major sporting event. But for BARB’s customers, it’s crucial to know not just how many people are watching, but who they are. As viewing behaviour changes and new platforms become more important, our industry wants answers to that question for viewing on all platforms and devices – but often the data available are for devices, not people.

That’s where representative panels come in, and it’s how BARB has been able to report programme average audiences across four screens for all individuals aged 4+ since September 2018. We do this by combining device-based census data from BVOD services (showing the number of PCs, tablets and smartphones used to watch programmes) with our panel data, which show the number of people watching and who they are.

For viewing on TV sets, PCs and tablets, wider demographic profiles are also available. And once the roll-out of router meters to panel homes is completed, demographic profiling will be available for smartphone viewing too.

The current multiple-screen viewing data allow us to discover examples of programmes where viewer profiles really differ across devices.

The first example is Cold Call, a four-episode original drama broadcast on Channel 5 in November 2019. Its TV set audience had the kind of age profile we might expect for a linear television drama, with just under half the audience over 65 and less than 13% under 45. Device viewing typically drives a younger audience profile but did so strongly in the case of this series – with 25% of viewing on tablets, and over 45% on PCs, accounted for by under-45s.

In the second example, we see again the impact of device viewing in enabling younger audiences to access a programme, even when in this case (Love Island) the baseline age profile in linear television is already skewed very young (60% under 35). Device viewing takes that young audience skew even further, with the under-35s accounting for 67% of this episode of Love Island’s viewing on tablets and 81% of viewing on PCs. We’ll be able to see the demographics of smartphone viewing to this show when the enhanced data become available.

In 2019’s Viewing Report, we saw that UKTV’s Taskmaster’s male bias on linear television was contrasted by a female bias in viewing on devices.

This year, it’s Fleabag that challenges gender expectations. In the third chart, we see the gender split of Fleabag across TV set, PC and tablet, contrasting each time with the average for BBC One on those devices. The gender mix of Fleabag viewers on the TV set was 50/50 male/female, showing a slight female bias relative to the BBC One average. Typically, BBC One viewing on PCs and tablets show a strong female bias, with women making up around two thirds of the audience. But Fleabag broke that rule, with men accounting for a remarkable 51% of the tablet audience, and 46% of the PC audience. Volumes of viewing to Fleabag on devices remained high for women, so the difference in gender mix was about growth in male viewing, not fewer female viewers.