Plus ça change…

A decade ends and an armada of navel-gazing features about the previous ten years is launched.

My Christmas TV viewing – when it wasn’t either David Tennant or a Big Fat Burp of the Year – seemed to consist of reviews of the best TV ads or programmes of the decade.   The best 20 TV ads of the decade give the lie to any suggestion that British advertising creativity isn’t what it was, with as many landmark ads as in any previous era.  

If TV advertising’s quality is not in question, how about a quick look at some of the numbers; the decade has certainly played havoc with my statistics.  Before Christmas, Thinkbox mined the data for the last 10 years to get an idea of how TV has changed for advertisers over the decade. Here are some concrete facts: (all BARB figures unless stated otherwise):

  • Daily broadcast TV viewing has increased by 3 minutes since 2000 to 3.72 hours.

  • Daily viewing of commercial TV has increased by over 5 minutes to 2.37 hours.

  • Commercial TV now accounts for 63.6% of our TV viewing, up from 62.1% in 2000.

  • We watch more TV ads at normal speed than ever before, up from 33 a day per person to 43 over the decade, adding up to a staggering 2.45 billion ads seen each day in total in the UK.

  • In 2000, only 31.6% of households had multi-channel TV; now 90.7% have it as digital switchover approaches.

  • In 2000 we had a choice of up to 252 channels; we now have 495, nearly double (source: Ofcom).

  • The average household now has 2 TV sets, the same as in 2000 (1.96). However, other screens which once didn’t deliver TV now can: PCs, Macs, laptops and mobile phones.

  • In 2000, High Definition TV didn’t exist; now 49% of households own an HD ready TV (source: Screen Digest) and around 10% subscribe to HD channels.

  • In 2000, no one had a digital TV recorder. VHS reigned. Now, 39% of households have a DTR (such as Sky+ or Freeview+) and watch 17% more TV (and 2% more ads at normal speed) as a result. (sources: Ofcom, Screen Digest, Skyview).

And what about the next ten years for TV?  I usually try to resist making predictions because one can only ever be wrong.  In 2005, when I was still at PHD, I predicted at the Oxford Media Convention that TV commercial impacts would decline by 8% by 2010.  This caused uproar – but only because everyone else there, including Ofcom, said that I was being hopelessly optimistic and complacent.  I was wrong of course, but not in the way anticipated; impacts have increased by nearly 15% since 2005.

But the facts above do give me confidence to predict a few things: 

We will be watching about 3.5 hours of TV a day in 2020.
In a decade of spectacular growth of internet use and capability, the fact that people of all ages dedicate as much time as they ever did to relaxing with their partner and family watching immersive TV entertainment tells us that this is something that is utterly fundamental to human society and is not going to go away.  Different technologies might deliver some of it, but making time to watch telly together is a principle way of expressing relationships.  That togetherness can now be expressed virtually too, with people talking online about what they are watching, making live linear viewing even more relevant and rewarding.

Place-shifting will increase TV viewing.

The vast majority want to watch TV on a gorgeous flat-screen TV set.  But other devices are a fantastic convenience when you can’t get to one.  TV viewing via mobile devices will grow but this viewing will be incremental to their in-home viewing.  What it will displace is not existing TV viewing but whatever medium you would otherwise have been consuming at your desk or on a train.

Live viewing will remain dominant.

On-demand services are a wonderful way to catch-up with linear TV.  But data from BARB showing the proximity of on-demand viewing to its original transmission in cable homes proves the overwhelming influence of the schedule; 50% of on-demand views are seen within a day, rapidly declining to only 2% after 5 days.  You might choose never to watch linear TV again, but what you watch on-demand will be largely shaped by the schedule, if only because of cultural references and conversations.  In today’s Guardian, Toby Syfret from Enders Analysis talked about this:

“From what we can see, there’s very little evidence people spend a huge amount of time digging stuff up from the archives. People want to watch what’s on now. In that respect, linear schedules – not something you need to burrow into your PC for – are a system that works incredibly well.”

TV advertising will remain a significant part of funding TV content.

TV advertising revenues have been overtaken by TV subscription revenues in recent years.  People are more than happy to pay for the added enjoyment they get from extra choice and improved picture quality.  But TV advertising is huge, and has even increased its share if total advertising slightly in the last two years.  People love good TV ads and find them the most acceptable – and effective – form of advertising.  What I hope the next ten years bring is an improved understanding of how TV drives online search and on- and offline purchases.  With more TV with its own return path, viewers will be able to click directly on TV ads, thereby helping advertisers avoid search costs and enabling correct attribution of cause and effect.  

Anyway, it’s all jolly exciting.  Thinkbox will be doing its best to help you navigate your way through the changes – foreseen or not – in the TV landscape ahead.

Here’s to a happy and prosperous 2010.

  • Tess Alps
    Tess Alps
    Chair, Thinkbox
  • Posted under
You might also like

What to watch on Channel 4

Follow young superstars in Football Dreams. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is back in Changing Rooms. Alex Brooker tours around the UK in Hobby Man. Alan Carr explores the world of his favourite childhood authors and you can discover the story of Britain’s Secret War Babies.


Highlights from UKTV

W’s Dating with my Mates twists your typical dinner date; Big Zuu's Big Eats returns to Dave; Drama brings a true story from World War 2 to our screens with Passport to Freedom; and CSI: Vegas is new on Alibi.


What’s on Sky in the next fortnight

The Premier League returns. Stephen Graham is back deleting crime in Code 404. In Irma Vep, a movie star’s life starts to blur. Find out what’s next for Dr Goodwin in New Amsterdam. One Shot follows young players from South London and Micah Richards: Player Pranks begins.