What People Watch

What People Watch: The return of the Premier League

22 June 2020

Welcome to What People Watch, a new series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. In this week’s edition, we look at the return of the Premier League to television screens after 100 days away.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

For the week ending June 14th (calendar week 24), consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels was 190 minutes a day. This was flat week-on-week (week 23 was 191 minutes a day).

Unidentified viewing for the week was 83 minutes, down slightly compared to last week (87 minutes).

The preliminary live and same-day viewing data for week 25 (week-ending June 21st) show 176 minutes a day of viewing to BARB-reported channels. This is consistent with live and same-day viewing for both of the previous two weeks, so we may see consolidated 7-day viewing at around 190 minutes once again. Unidentified viewing for week 25 was at 76 minutes per day.

The return of Premier League football

On June 17th, the Premier League returned to our screens with the first games in more than three months. The remaining matches this season span a variety of days and kick-off times, and are being broadcast on a range of channels. From Wednesday to Sunday, 19 of the 20 Premier League teams’ matches were broadcast on TV, with tonight’s fixture of Manchester City vs Burnley completing the set. Average audiences for the matches so far, aggregated across all channels showing the games, are as follows:

Source: BARB, aggregated individuals 4+ average audience across all reported channels showing the match, based on live + same-day viewing data for TV sets only.
*Sky Sports Football coverage comprised live “watch-along” broadcasts.

For the matches broadcast on Sky Sports, the evening match of the return (Manchester City vs Arsenal) set a short-lived record as the highest audience of the season on these pay-TV channels, delivering an aggregated average audience of 2.65m. This was then eclipsed by the Spurs vs Manchester United game on Friday night, which achieved an aggregate 2.68m audience. Sky Sports’ previous aggregate high this season was for Liverpool vs Man United in January (2.48m).

The earlier Friday night fixture (Norwich vs Southampton), which also aired on the free-to-air Pick UK as well as Sky 1, delivered some extra audience with 1.77m watching across four channels, an increase of over 280,000 compared to the 6pm Wednesday kickoff (broadcast on two Sky Sports channels). In all, over 480k of the total aggregate audience for the earlier Friday game came from Pick UK. Audiences on the non-sports channels generally grew across the games, peaking with the Merseyside derby on Sunday evening, which averaged an audience of 1.24m on Pick UK, in addition to its audience on Sky Sports and Sky 1. Overall, an aggregate audience of 3.4m across four channels watched the closely-fought draw between Everton and Liverpool, the highest audience of the weekend.

In second place overall was the Saturday evening kickoff of Bournemouth vs Crystal Palace, which saw the Premier League broadcast on the BBC for the first time. The average audience of 3.3m on BBC1 delivered a 20.4% share in the timeslot, almost four percentage points higher than the timeslot average across the other Saturdays of 2020 so far.

Another break with tradition saw BT Sport broadcast a game at 3pm on a Saturday – a slot that is normally blocked for UK broadcasters. The average audience of 726k for this match (Brighton vs Arsenal) was higher than the season average that BT Sport has achieved for its Saturday 12.30 kickoffs, and as the second game of a double-header on BT Sport, also delivered a higher audience than the first game.

Across all 11 fixtures so far, the cumulative reach is over 17.6m people, 29% of individuals aged 4+ in TV households. This measure counts those that have tuned in to at least three minutes of one live game on a TV set, without counting them a second time if they tuned in again. The highest-reaching individual match was the BBC1 broadcast, with over 8.8m people tuning into at least three minutes of this game. By looking at the total figure incrementally, we can also see how the reach builds across the matches, seeing how each fixture contributed to the 17.6m total:

Source: BARB, individuals 4+. Reach based on 3 mins consecutive viewing on a TV set. Live and same-day viewing only.

The first match (Aston Villa vs Sheffield United) delivered a reach of 4.39m people. The cumulative total after two games was 6.18m – meaning that the second match on Wednesday (Man City vs Arsenal) was watched by 1.79m people who hadn’t watched match one. We can then continue adding on the new viewers to each fixture, to reach the cumulative total.

As the number of matches increases, it becomes more difficult to add on incremental reach, as most football fans will have tuned into an earlier game, but we can see that there are key drivers of uplift. The first free-to-air game, Norwich vs Southampton on Friday, added 2.79m who had not watched previously, and the BBC1 game added a further 4.79m, showing the ability of these channels to attract viewers who do not have a pay-TV subscription for sport. Every broadcast added on some incremental viewers, presumably dedicated fans who were waiting for their team’s game. The final match on Sunday (Everton vs Liverpool) added over 1.5m new viewers who had not watched an earlier game between Wednesday and Sunday, an impressive figure considering that earlier results meant that Liverpool could no longer clinch the title even with a win, extending their 30-year wait for a few more days.

What People Watch will return with more insights into how people are watching television.

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB

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