The Viewing Report

Devices in the TV ecosystem

12 May 2020

Ten years since the release of Apple’s first-ever iPad in 2010, tablets are now commonplace devices. But taking under 1% of viewing minutes across 2019, it’s clear that tablets have enhanced rather than disrupted TV set viewing. So, it’s fascinating to delve into BARB data to investigate how people are using their various devices.

The first chart gives a 12-month picture of the billions of minutes viewed in 2019 on non-TV devices. It’s clear that it’s television’s standout events that drive the peaks in viewing on devices, and the dips coincide with school and bank holidays, in line with what we see for TV set viewing. It seems that it’s during typical working weeks that people use devices the most to catch up or get ahead of their viewing.

Looking underneath the peaks and troughs, tablets are the population’s first-choice device in every week of the year: ranging from 38% to 51% of the volume of non-TV set viewing.

The popularity of Love Island amongst young adults drives the year’s biggest device viewing peak. And Love Island’s young audience, preferring smartphones and PCs to tablets, drive a different shape to the pattern of device use precisely during the show’s weeks on air.

Viewing on devices was also high during September to December, driven by the Rugby World Cup and I’m a Celebrity. PC viewing in particular was high during the Rugby World Cup, perhaps unsurprising given that quite a few games were live during weekday business hours. In the final week of the year, The Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special deserves a special mention – leading to a festive peak in viewing on devices.

The second chart looks at device viewing across the day and overlays the familiar shape of TV set viewing. Device viewing has come to reflect the settled daypart pattern that viewers are comfortable with for their TV set viewing, and builds to the same 2100 peak. (Note the difference in the scales here, though – with TV set viewing minutes almost 80 times the volume of minutes on devices.)

One key difference, however, is the steep increase in TV set viewing from 4pm onwards, outpacing the slower build in device viewing; perhaps a reminder of how the general population are watching at home rather than how commuters are viewing on smartphones and tablets in London and other cities. TV set viewing is disproportionately strong in the clock-hours from 1600 to 2000 – taking an average of 98.9% of all viewing minutes across that time.

Focusing on devices, tablets take the lion’s share in every clock-hour, peaking at breakfast time and again after school, throughout the evening and then after the evening peak as people’s first-choice non-TV device for late-night viewing.

PCs and smartphones jostle for second-place device throughout the day – smartphones are more popular before work, but PCs then edge ahead during the working day and are chosen ahead of smartphones for bigger-screen viewing across the evening from 1700 to 2300. It’s tablets and smartphones that dominate non-TV set viewing in the wee small hours.

A decade on from the iPad’s launch, we’re now seeing a settled pattern in device usage for viewing: tablets as first-choice for most; and a familiar shape to viewing across the day.