Viewing figures for 2014 show changing TV landscape

  • Average TV set viewing fell in 2014, driven by heaviest viewers watching less 
  • TV viewing on tablets, smartphones and laptops continues to increase 
  • 98.4% of the UK’s TV viewing was on a TV set in 2014; 1.6% was on other screens 
  • TV’s weekly UK population reach in 2014 was unchanged at 94.2% 
  • Commercial TV dominated viewing; average viewer watches 45 ads a day 
  • Younger people watched less TV, but TV remains the dominant youth medium

27 February 2015: Total average daily TV viewing in the UK during 2014 was 3 hours, 44 minutes, 30 seconds a day per person. Overall, there was a decline in total TV viewing of 10 minutes, 30 seconds a day compared to 2013, a fall of 4.5%. This was entirely down to a drop in TV set viewing, which decreased by 4.7%. Viewing on other screens, such as tablets and laptops, grew year on year by 17%.

This total is based on the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board’s (BARB) standard measurement for TV set viewing (which only includes in-home TV viewing on a TV set, live or playback, within 7 days of broadcast) and figures supplied by the UK broadcasters to Thinkbox for TV viewing on other screens. This breaks down as follows:

  • 3 hours, 41 minutes of TV on a TV set (live/playback/on-demand within 7 days of broadcast)
  • 3 minutes, 30 seconds of TV via devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops (mostly on-demand but some live streams)*

Although viewing on TV sets declined, they continue to be the UK’s screen of choice by some distance. In 2014, 98.4% of all TV was watched on a TV set. 86% of TV set viewing was on a TV set in the living room, according to BARB. Taking the long-term perspective, TV set viewing was only 0.4% less in 2014 than it was 10 years ago.

Heaviest TV viewers are watching less

Analysis of BARB’s data indicates that 95% of the dip in TV set viewing is accounted for by the heaviest TV viewers (those who were watching over an average of 4 hours a day) watching less. This analysis shows that the number of viewers who watched over 4 hours a day in 2014 fell by 7.2% compared with 2013**.

Other factors influencing the changes in TV viewing are:

  • As TV embraces new times and places, more viewing is falling outside what BARB includes in its standard measurement;
  • The wider choice of on-demand content, from the broadcasters and other services, is shifting the balance of people’s viewing;
  • An improving economy and increased employment. 

TV’s reach is unchanged

The drop in the number of heavy viewers explains why TV’s UK population reach has stayed virtually the same (94.6% a week in 2013 vs. 94.2% in 2014). It isn’t that people have stopped watching linear TV; it is that those who were watching the most watched a bit less.

Including 8-28 day viewing changes the picture

BARB’s standard industry measurement – on which TV advertising is traded – only includes in-home viewing on a TV set, live or playback, within 7 days of broadcast. However, an increasing amount of TV viewing is happening outside these 7 days and out of the home.

Since July 2013 BARB has also been measuring time-shifted viewing 8-28 days after broadcast. Including this viewing changes the picture slightly and gives a more accurate representation of how TV is changing. Including 8-28 day viewing and comparing Jul-Dec 2013 with the same period in 2014, shows the decline in TV set viewing was 3.4%, not the 4.7% based on the standard 7-day measurement.

BARB’s ‘Project Dovetail’ is working towards providing reliable data about new ways TV is being watched on other devices. Early results from it are expected soon.

Live continues to thrive as playback settles

In 2014, 88% of all TV set viewing was watched live compared to 89% in 2013 (there is no data yet to show what proportion of TV watched on other screens is live-streamed).

Specifically in the 58% of households that own a digital television recorder, 83% of TV on a TV set in 2014 was watched live compared to 84% in 2013. So the level of non-live viewing (i.e. playback and VOD within 7 days on a TV set) seems to be settling around the 15-20% mark.

48% of all recorded viewing was watched within 24 hours of recording and 81% watched within two days, demonstrating viewers’ desire to stay close to the live schedules.

Commercial TV dominates viewing and we watched 45 ads a day

65.8% of TV set viewing in 2014 was to commercial TV channels, meaning that the average person watched 2 hours 25 minutes of commercial TV a day. Commercial impacts during 2014 decreased by 3.3% compared with 2013. Taking a broader perspective, they have grown by 27% over the last ten years. The average viewer watched 45 ads a day – 7 ads more a day than ten years ago. Collectively the UK watched an average of 2.65 billion ads a day in 2014.

Younger people watched less TV, but TV remains the dominant youth medium

Commercial TV proved especially popular with younger audiences, accounting for 74.8% of 16-34s’ TV viewing.

16-34s watched 7.1% less TV on TV sets in 2014 compared to 2013. However they are the fastest adopters of viewing TV via other screens. There are no official BARB figures for that yet but viewing on other screens is estimated by Thinkbox to be an extra 4-5% of TV viewing for younger audiences, which compares with the extra 1.6% for the average viewer.

Other respected sources like IPA Touchpoints make it clear that TV remains the most popular medium for young people, accounting for 41% of their chosen media time.

Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox Chief Executive: “TV viewing is changing and the data needs to be examined very carefully to understand what is actually going on. After years of record growth for broadcast TV as on-demand began to flower, new viewing trends are now becoming established and there’s a new eco-system for TV. It is nuanced, it raises new opportunities for advertisers, it reflects how modern viewers want to enjoy TV – and it is a royal pain in the arse for BARB to measure. But, it is here, it is the future and we should embrace it, understand it and help advertisers make the most of it because TV remains by far their most potent weapon.”


* Broadcast TV viewing via the TV set is measured by BARB’s live viewing panel representing the in-home viewing behaviour of the 26 million TV households within the UK, whether live or time-shifted within 7 days of broadcast. Non-TV set viewing was calculated based on stream data provided by the UK broadcasters. It includes all catch-up and live streaming TV (including programmes watched after 7 days of the original broadcast). Figures for non-TV set viewing in 2013 have been revised in light of more detailed streaming data provided by the broadcasters giving a better understanding of average stream duration by device. Average non-TV set viewing in 2013 was originally published as 3 minutes, 30 seconds. Re-calculation has shown this should have been 3 minutes a day. Comparisons with 2014 are based on the revised figure.

** As BARB does not generate industry  standard audiences based on weight of viewing, this analysis is generated through panel data using members who were active on the middle day of each year analysed (the middle day is the standard industry benchmark for reach analysis). This sample accounts for approximately 84% of all viewing.   

Press contact:

  • Simon Tunstill | Head of Communications, Thinkbox | [email protected] | 020 7630 2326

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