TV viewing breaks record at 4 hours a day in 2010

- New figures show that live, linear TV viewing in UK increased by over 2 hours a week in 2010 -
- 92.4% of viewing is to live, linear TV; only 7.6% is ‘timeshifted’ -
- Thinkbox predicts live, linear viewing may have peaked -

27 January 2011: Thinkbox announced today that live, linear TV viewing figures in the UK for 2010 were the highest since records began.

According to new figures from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), in 2010 the average TV viewer watched 28 hours, 15 minutes of live, linear TV a week (4 hours, 2 minutes a day). This is an increase of 2 hours, 4 minutes a week (18 minutes a day) on 2009 and represents an all time high in TV viewing.
This spectacular performance has been fuelled by many influences including the take-up of new TV technologies, on-demand TV services – which lead people back to linear TV – and both the economic and weather climates. Thinkbox predicts that live, linear TV viewing is now likely to have reached its peak.

Commercial TV channels (i.e. non-BBC channels) accounted for 63% of all live, linear TV viewing. During 2010, the average person watched 17 hours, 41 minutes (2 hours, 32 minutes a day) of linear, commercial TV channels a week. This is an increase of 1 hour, 4 minutes a week (9 minutes a day) on 2009. In the last ten years, commercial TV viewing alone has increased by 1 hour, 41 minutes a week (14 minutes a day).

The increase in live, linear TV viewing follows a pattern set in recent years. Reasons behind the continued growth in TV viewing include:

  • An updated TV measurement system, launched in January 2010, which more accurately captures viewing of second TV sets and on-demand TV;
  • Greater choice of TV to watch as more households switch to digital TV (93%, according to Ofcom Digital Progress Report Q3 2010);
  • New TV technologies (such as digital TV recorders) that enhance the TV experience and magnetise viewers to TV sets;
  • On-demand TV services which send people back to the broadcast schedules. 89% of people watch on-demand TV mainly to catch- or keep-up with missed broadcast TV (source: Decipher/Thinkbox);
  • Excellent TV programming and a wide variety of channels which cater for most tastes – including a World Cup which drew large audiences
  • The economic recession encouraging people to stay in more;
  • Bad weather conditions at the beginning and end of 2010.

The figures, which do not include TV viewed on devices other than TV sets, underline the primacy of the live TV schedule in the UK. BARB does not currently measure this additional viewing as part of its normal standards, but has been separately monitoring viewing on devices other than TV sets since 2005.  Its data suggests that there is an additional 1% of TV viewing via other devices, 2% for 16-24 year olds.
‘Time-shifted’ viewing
According to BARB, non-live, ‘time-shifted’ viewing accounted for 7.6% of the UK’s TV consumption during 2010. In households that own digital television recorders, such as Sky+ or Freeview+, timeshifting represented a larger proportion of TV viewing (14%). This figure has declined from 16% only two years ago. Reasons for this could be a combination of DTRs now spreading beyond early adopters, who tend to use technology more, and the effects of social media which are creating a ‘drive to live’ – encouraging people to watch TV as it is broadcast. The higher share of the DTR universe amongst Virgin and Freeview homes (who tend to watch less time-shifted TV than Sky+ homes) is also a factor.

Commercial impacts
The increase in commercial viewing has also meant an increase in the number of TV ads viewed. Commercial impacts (the number of ads watched at normal speed) during 2010 were up 5.9% on 2009, and have grown by 21.1% over the last five years to a new record high. The average viewer watched 46 ads a day during 2010 compared to 43 ads in 2009.

Tess Alps, Thinkbox’s CEO: “The TV landscape is changing dramatically. But whatever technology is over the horizon, we are confident that people’s love of TV will remain. Far from threatening TV viewing, almost every new media development – from search and social media to connected TV sets – is boosting TV advertising’s effectiveness.”

The new figures will be published in Thinkbox’s Annual Review, which will be available at the end of February in full on Thinkbox’s website


Press contact:
Simon Tunstill | Head of PR, Thinkbox | [email protected] | 020 7630 2326


About Thinkbox

Thinkbox is the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, in all its forms. Its shareholders are Channel 4, Five, GMTV, ITV, Sky Media, and Turner Media Innovations, who together represent over 90% of commercial TV advertising revenue through their owned and partner TV channels. Thinkbox works with the marketing community with a single ambition: to help advertisers get the best out of today's TV.

TV today has more to offer advertisers than ever before, not least because this growing medium remains at the heart of popular culture and advertising effectiveness. From understanding how audiences engage with TV advertising, explaining innovative and affordable solutions, to providing the rigorous proof of effectiveness that advertisers need, Thinkbox is here to help customers meet their marketing objectives.

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