The Viewing Report

Most-watched on devices

12 May 2020

It no longer seems remarkable to watch television on a computer, tablet or phone. Whether it’s to see something live, catch up on a show we missed or get ahead on a series we’re hooked on, our devices seem like an everyday way to watch television when and where we like, even though the TV set remains the go-to device when possible.

By fusing census-level device data with panel data, BARB has been providing multiple-screen programme viewing figures since September 2018. We can now see these data across a whole year, giving an overview of the programmes that gained most device viewers in 2019.

Looking at this first table, we can see the programmes that achieved the highest absolute audiences on devices. It’s a table dominated by the shows that earned must-see status (and achieved the highest television ratings) in 2019 – whether dramas (such as Killing Eve, Line of Duty, Peaky Blinders, Game of Thrones), entertainment (Love Island, The Apprentice, I’m a Celebrity) or sport (the Rugby World Cup semi-final between England and New Zealand). It was must-see premieres or series finales that almost always drove the highest device viewing to dramas; whether those series ran across several weeks or (in the case of Luther and The Victim) consecutive days.

Viewing on devices was also a reflection of the public’s determination to catch a couple of legendary comedy comebacks: the Christmas Day edition of Gavin and Stacey – the UK’s most-watched television comedy for 17 years; and the first-episode return of Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge.

Topping the table is Love Island, an early episode in its highest-rated fifth series. (For this table, we’ve taken out duplicates of the same programme. Without that adjustment, Love Island would have claimed the 48 biggest audiences on devices in 2019, almost its entire broadcast run.) This particular episode achieved an average audience of over 1.5m on devices, or 27% of its total audience. Knowing its young audience appeal, it’s perhaps not a surprise to see that Love Island achieved by far the biggest smartphone audience in this top-ranked table, with smartphone viewing comprising 11% of that episode’s total four-screen audience or 41% of the non-TV device viewing. Other Love Island episodes drove the highest absolute levels of PC and tablet viewing. Clearly Love Island was – for its audience – something you just could not miss.

Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out was the highest-ranked documentary viewed on devices in 2019 – almost certainly related to its young appeal, but probably also that the documentary launched and earned a reputation on BBC Three and was later aired on BBC One (which is the broadcast that’s picked up in this table).

The second table highlights the programmes where device viewing drove the biggest percentage uplift in viewing. Often off a smaller TV set base, the table is dominated by children’s and young adult programming, with a sprinkling of sports across golf, football and cricket.

Love Island features again, with its sheer volumes of device viewing driving the biggest percentage uplifts on TV set viewing; and while some of the uplifts in this table are driven off smaller TV set audience sizes, that’s not the case for lots of the young adult programmes here, which are achieving substantial audiences on all four screens.