The true measure of love (island)

There are three things that often keep me awake at night: the melting of the polar ice caps, whether Sunderland AFC will suffer back-to-back relegations, and the wonderful flexibility we now have in consuming TV content.

Yes, the bulk of viewing is very similar to the way it has always been. But TV now fits in and around our lives. It would be unreasonable not to expect people to take advantage of that convenience. Here’s how TV viewing breaks down:

Additional-6percentWhen we talk about TV viewing, most of the time we are referring to the BARB industry standard measurement. This consolidated data incorporates live and time-shifted viewing (between 1 and 7 days) on a TV set.

But, of course, our TV viewing has expanded beyond the TV set in our living room. Thanks to the vast improvements in technology and broadcaster on-demand services, more and more TV is watched on our mobile devices – e.g. smartphones, laptops and tablets.

However, when we see reports of the latest TV viewing figures and programme audience numbers they often don’t include this viewing.

So, as I lay restless during a hot summer’s night in July – panicking about the future of the polar bear and my football club – I reached for my tablet and tuned into the most recent episode of Love Island.

Whilst I enjoyed the latest highlights of 12 implausibly bronzed contestants’ quest to find true love and pondered whether the term ‘melt’ could truly be used as a noun, I began to wonder just how much of the show’s viewing exists outside the BARB gold standard measurement. Liam Gallagher – could you be one of them?

Fortunately, we have the BARB TV Player Report to help us have a more holistic view. We can now get a feel of the audience figures for those who are live-streaming or watching on-demand using a device.

For example, let’s take the week from 3rd July to 9th July and the six episodes of Love Island that aired. An average audience of 2.8 million watched the show across the episodes - so that’s 2.8 million tuning in live or watching via playback within 7 days after broadcast, on their TV set.

But what about online device viewing? BARB TV Player Report, this is your time to shine…

If you assume one stream equals one viewer, the 6 episodes averaged an extra audience of 679,000 viewers. When you total up BARB’s gold standard measurement of viewers and those viewing on ITV Hub, this ‘device viewing’ audience makes up 19% of the total average audience and increases it to 3.5 million.


So with this week’s final episode helping ITV2 achieve its highest ever TV set audience of almost 3 million, it’s important to remember that this figure only shows you part of a bigger picture. We don’t have the figures for device viewing of the final episode yet but it is safe to say that it will dramatically increase the total audience.

It’s a similar story for other popular TV shows too. An episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, originally broadcast on Channel 4 on the 9th July, enjoyed an extra 115,000 viewers watching on the All 4 on-demand service via a device - increasing the average audience to 2.4 million. 

And it is the same for popular live sports on TV, such as the match between the British and Irish Lions and New Zealand on 8th July, which was watched by an extra 66,000 viewers on Sky Go.

It is vital to recognise the growing importance and convenience of mobile devices in our TV consumption. It has many benefits, such as helping those still living with mum and dad to avoid having to squirm through the awkward sex chat on Love Island; they can still enjoy the sex chat but separately, left to their own device.

As we often say at Thinkbox, “TV isn’t going anywhere, it’s going everywhere”. It’s imperative to look at the wider picture of TV viewing as it fits ever better into our lives.


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