The Viewing Report

Updated Insight

21 May 2019

Every year in The Viewing Report, BARB examines UK television viewing behaviour in the previous year from three key angles:

  • Timeshift – how much timeshifted television did UK viewers watch? When and why did timeshifted viewing peak and dip? Which genre was the most timeshifted? And which demographic and region were responsible for the most timeshifted viewing?
  • Share by genre – How did the genres rank by share of total TV viewing? Which genres saw significant increases or decreases in their share, and why?
  • Share by broadcaster – How did the major broadcaster groups rank by share of audience? Which of their channels had the highest share?

Here we’ll find out the answers to these questions for 2018 viewing.

For further updates on viewing trends, check out the Trendspotting tab, which features quarterly trackers of metrics such as device access, SVOD households and UK households by TV platform.


Having grown more slowly in 2016 and 2017, timeshifted viewing increased by 0.9 percentage points in 2018, the highest growth in four years. This growth is likely driven by increased use of BVOD services.

In a year in which England performed well at a summer football tournament, we saw a sharper downturn in timeshifted viewing during the summer months than in odd-numbered years.

In 2018, drama increased its lead as the most timeshifted genre, with 31% of viewing timeshifted. Adults 25-34 and those in the South & South East continued to be the demographic and regions doing the most timeshifted viewing. Interestingly, those in the South West moved ahead of the national average for timeshifting, having been behind it during 2017.

Share by genre

In 2018, sport enjoyed its bi-annual upswing to claim 8.6% of viewing– 1.5 percentage points higher than 2017. This was the biggest year-on-year gain for any genre in terms of share. However, in spite of England’s strong World Cup performance, victory for Europe at the Ryder Cup and a Winter Olympics, this high was lower than the share achieved by sport in other even-numbered years in the last decade.

Entertainment enjoyed its highest share in a decade to take 19.2% of viewing. 2018 did not diminish the appeal of I’m a Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing or Britain’s Got Talent, among others. Viewers devoted a little less time to news and current affairs as a news agenda dominated by President Trump and Brexit took its toll. Children’s programming continued to shed share – losing a further 0.4% to sit at 3.7% of viewing.

Sports stats
In an even-numbered year, major sporting events attracted significant audiences.

Sports fans were treated to a hearty diet in 2018, as Kelly Cates discusses in this report. The World Cup in Russia clearly delivered large audiences, but a less heralded event, The Winter Olympics from PyeongChang, also reached a significant number of viewers. Below we take a look at some of the broad differences between the two groups of viewers.

Winter Olympics reached* 44.1m

World Cup reached* 53.1m

* All individuals aged 4+ that viewed for at least three consecutive minutes.
Source: BARB

Share by broadcaster

The top ten broadcaster groups remain unchanged on 2017. Sky moved back above Viacom into fourth place, but the two are now only separated by 0.1 percentage point. Discovery climbed to seventh spot, having increased its share from 2.3% to 2.7% in 2018. The most significant change saw the narrowing of the gap between BBC and ITV. Standing at 9.9 percentage points in 2017, ITV closed the gap to 7.7 points by the end of 2018.