What People Watch

What People Watch: Solo vs. co-viewing

4 May 2020

Welcome to What People Watch, a new series exploring different aspects of how UK audiences are watching television now. With household members still have to spend much more time together, we look in this week’s edition at the growth in shared viewing during the pandemic lockdown.

TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels

Viewing to BARB-reported channels saw a decrease for the week ending April 26th (calendar week 17), as the UK entered its fifth week of stay-at-home restrictions. Although viewing remained at a high level, comfortably above seasonal norms, there was a decline of 18 minutes per day versus the previous week. Consolidated 7-day TV set viewing to BARB-reported channels was 197 minutes a day on average, still 15 minutes a day higher than the same week of 2019.

For the first time since the start of lockdown, there was also an appreciable fall in the level of unidentified viewing. The aggregate time for all types of TV set use that aren’t viewing to a BARB-reported channel or service was down to 82 minutes a day in week 17, a drop of 12 minutes.

The preliminary figures for week 18 (the week ending May 3rd) are also included on the chart, based on live and same-day TV set viewing only (dashed line). There are indications that when consolidated 7-day data are added in next week, viewing to BARB-reported channels will increase versus week 17. Unidentified viewing also shows that we can expect a slight uplift. The consolidated figure will be included in the next edition of What People Watch.

Solo vs. co-viewing on a TV set

With people staying at home, one measure that has seen an increase during the pandemic lockdown is co-viewing – watching television with at least one other person. Overall, the proportion of solo viewing to a BARB-reported channel was 53.2% on average between weeks 1-12 2020. This has declined to 51.0% on average across weeks 13-17.

The chart above looks at the rate of growth for solo and co-viewing in weeks 13-17 compared with weeks 1-12 this year. This analysis is based on live viewing only. Viewing alone has increased, up 9% in weeks 13-17 versus the levels seen in weeks 1-12. However, viewing in groups has increased at a faster rate, thus causing the overall fall in the proportion of viewing that happens alone. Viewing by two-person groups has increased by 18% compared to the pre-lockdown level, and viewing from three and four-person groups is higher again, up 21% and 24% respectively. Viewing among even larger groups of five or more has been more stable, up 4% overall, but given that a smaller number of households have the opportunity to view in groups this size, there is a lower impact on the overall average.

In terms of the programmes that are likely to attract co-viewing, we are also seeing some differences. A year ago, the programming in weeks 13-17 that delivered the highest levels of co-viewing was entertainment shows, drama and sport, including Britain’s Got Talent, Line of Duty, the Grand National and an England Euro 2020 qualifier. There was one news broadcast in the top ten last year. In 2020 under lockdown, there are some clear changes. Although family-favourites such as Britain’s Got Talent and Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway still rank highly, it is news coverage that has come to the fore, with five national bulletins in the co-viewing top ten for these weeks. Not surprisingly, the Prime Ministerial statement on 23rd March was the programme with the largest amount of live co-viewing, and solo live viewing, during this period.

What People Watch will return with more insights into UK viewing behaviour.

Jeremy Martin, Insights Manager, BARB

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