The Viewing Report

Most-watched on devices

21 May 2019

When we want to watch an unmissable programme but can’t get to our TV set, we often turn to other devices.

The following set of tables takes things down to the programme level and identifies those television moments that drive uplifts in audience numbers because people have used their PCs, tablets and smartphones to get the content they love.

In this first table, we see those programmes where device viewing has driven the biggest percentage uplifts. The analysis sets a minimum TV set audience of 100,000 but includes shows that achieved many more TV set viewers – like Love Island: Australia – and still gained substantial numbers of additional viewers on other devices. Similar reality entertainment shows had smaller TV set audiences but gained big audience uplifts from device viewing.

But taking the top slot in this table, and featuring strongly throughout, are children’s drama series like Millie Inbetween and The Dumping Ground, where, from smaller TV set audiences, device viewing drove big percentage uplifts. Smartphone viewing was unusually high to these programmes, and often exceeded norms on tablets too. Recent reports from Ofcom and Childwise about 5-16s defaulting ever more to devices and away from the TV set would support this observation.

Special mention has to go to Avengers: Infinity War, which added 20% to its Christmas Day TV set audience with viewing on devices. Marvel superheroes not to everyone’s taste at Christmas, perhaps.

This second table shows the programmes that achieved the biggest absolute audiences on non-TV set devices. Top slot goes to the finale of Bodyguard, which added 865,500 to its whopping TV set audience of over 14m (although this table is only for programmes broadcast from August 27th; if it was for all of 2018, then Love Island would have claimed top spot). These top-ranking programmes for device viewing were generally big hit series on the TV set too – the top five in this table all added over 400,000 to their TV set audience. A closer look at the broadcast dates reveals that it’s often the series debut or finale that drives these big audiences on devices.

While drama series dominate, three very different programmes remind us that must-see television is when devices come into their own: They Shall Not Grow Old, the First World War documentary recreated from original footage and shown on Armistice Day; the Christmas Day edition of Call The Midwife and Love Island: The Christmas Reunion (which was a hit on TV sets as well as gaining a big uplift via device viewing).

And such is the reputation of Sir David Attenborough, that the debut episode of Dynasties commanded over 250,000 viewers on non-TV devices.

Further analysis (not shown here) gives us the top-ranking programmes on each device. Bodyguard takes top position on every device, but all the other top-ranking device-led programmes punched above expectations on particular devices – The Apprentice to PC (seems appropriate); I’m a Celebrity and The Cry to tablet; and Love Island: Christmas Reunion to smartphone.

So, it’s clear that different devices suit different audiences, genres and programmes, and markedly different behaviour patterns may emerge over time. Fortunately, BARB data will allow us to keep an eye on it all.