Commercial TV viewing increases during first half of 2016

  • Figures for Jan-Jun show that commercial TV viewing on TV sets has increased
  • BBC Three’s move online-only appears to have boosted commercial TV viewing
  • Youth brand Vice prepares to launch new commercial TV channel in UK next month
  • Commercial TV’s share of total TV viewing increased to 67.4%

London, 22 August 2016: As Viceland – the new broadcast TV channel from global youth media brand Vice – is set to launch in the UK next month, commercial TV channels in the UK enjoyed a strong beginning to 2016.

UK figures for the first half of this year show that average commercial TV viewing on a TV set increased to 2 hours, 24 minutes a day, an increase of 1 minute on the same period in 2015 and 7 minutes more a day than a decade ago. 

Total TV viewing (including BBC channels) decreased slightly year on year to 3 hours, 34 minutes a day -  a decrease of 2 minutes a day. TV’s weekly reach remained stable, at 93.8% of the UK. On average 86% of Jan-Jun TV viewing was live.

Commercial TV’s share of total TV viewing during the first six months of 2016 was 67.4%, up from 66% during the same period in 2015. 

Additional TV viewing

The figures above are based on the UK industry standard measurement for TV viewing – viewing in home on a TV set within 7 days of the original broadcast, as measured by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB).

BARB’s standard measurement does not include TV watched on other devices, such as tablets and smartphones, nor the increasing amount of viewing on a TV set that now happens after 7 days or out of home. 

Including this extra viewing means that overall TV viewing – any time, any place, any screen – during the first half of 2016 increases by 8 minutes a day to total 3 hours, 42 minutes a day.*

Commercial TV benefits from BBC Three closure

It is likely that the closure of BBC Three’s broadcast TV channel in February is partly responsible for a dip in BBC TV viewing and commercial TV’s strong performance – in particular the viewing of 16-34s.

According to Mar-May figures from BARB**, the BBC’s broadcast TV viewing has dropped by 8% compared with the same period last year. The drop is more pronounced among 16-34s – BBC Three’s core audience – for whom viewing dropped by 18%. With iPlayer viewing flat across the same period as reported in the latest iPlayer performance pack, it appears that the BBC has lost the viewing BBC Three previously provided. This underlines the continued importance of having a broadcast TV channel alongside an online VOD service. 

During Jan-Jun 2016, the overall TV viewing of 16-34 year olds dropped by an average of 3 minutes a day compared with 2015 to 2 hours, 20 minutes a day. However, this decline was entirely borne by BBC channels. Commercial TV viewing saw an increase of 1 minute a day to an average of 1 hour, 49 minutes a day.

Commercial TV channels that cater for 16-34s have benefitted since BBC Three’s closure, with ITV2 experiencing an increase of 27% year on year in time spent viewing across Mar-Jun (with Love Island and Family Guy both having a significant impact) and E4 experiencing an increase of 4%.

Commercial TV accounts for 76.4% of children’s TV viewing

4-15 year olds averaged 1 hour, 41 minutes of TV on a TV set during the first half of the year, 7 minutes less than the same period in 2015. 

The majority of 4-15s’ viewing was to commercial TV channels, which accounted for 1 hour, 17 minutes a day, a year on year decline of 3 minutes a day. Any declines for this age group are exaggerated due to the fact that non-TV set viewing, which skews heavily to younger people, is not yet included in the standard measurement figures.

Matt Hill

TV is thriving on all screens, but the importance of TV channels on TV sets cannot be overlooked. They remain the first port of call for the majority of people of all ages. The apparent boost that commercial TV has received from BBC Three’s disappearance from the schedules underlines this fact – a strategy that is in stark contrast to the imminent arrival of Viceland on commercial TV.

Matt Hill Research and Planning Director



Press contact: Simon Tunstill | Communications Director, Thinkbox | [email protected]

* Additional TV viewing explained

The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board’s (BARB) standard TV measurement covers viewing on a TV set within 7 days of the original broadcast.

It does not include TV watched on other devices, such as tablets and smartphones, which BARB does not yet fully measure; nor does it include the increasing amount of viewing on a TV set that now happens after 7 days, which BARB does measure (playback or VOD viewing 8 or more days after broadcast; broadcaster box-set / film VOD viewing). 

By including this additional viewing on a TV set 8-28 days after broadcast (4.5 minutes a day) and an estimate for non-TV set viewing based on data from BARB’s TV Player report (January-June) and Thinkbox estimates to account for platforms that are not yet published by BARB or only began publishing numbers part way into 2016 (3.5 minutes a day), overall TV viewing – any time, any screen – during the first half of 2016 totalled 3 hours, 42 minutes a day.

** Using March-May figures

March-May figures have been used as the comparison period here rather than January-June because BBC Three ceased broadcasting in February and Euro 2016 in June will have disproportionately boosted the performance of the BBC portfolio and so prevents a ‘like for like’ year on year comparison.


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