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Linear TV viewing remains above 4 hours a day for third consecutive year

On average, viewers watched 3 episodes a month on-demand via tablets, smartphones or laptops

Time-shifted TV viewing may be plateauing

New figures show that TV viewing in the UK is continuing to expand as people watch additional TV on-demand via TV sets, tablets, smartphones and laptops. In total, the average UK viewer watched 4 hours, 4 minutes of TV a day in 2012 – the year when TV in the UK became 100% digital following analogue switch-off.
Full year viewing figures for 2012 from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) reveal that viewers in the UK watched an average of 4 hours, 1 minute a day of linear TV on a TV set, a minute below the record level set in 2011. This is the third consecutive year that linear TV viewing on a TV set has remained above an average of four hours a day.
In addition to this, according to figures supplied by UK broadcasters to Thinkbox, in 2012 viewers in the UK also watched an average of 3 minutes a day of  TV, mostly on-demand but some live streams,  on non-TV set devices via established services such as ITV Player, Sky Go, 4OD and BBC iPlayer, and new services like Dave On-demand. This is the first time the average amount of TV watched via devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops has been quantified. It amounts to an average of three 30-minute TV episodes a month per viewer (90 minutes).
However, balancing this growth is the increasing availability of on-demand services to TV sets, which could limit viewing on other devices. 
Linear TV viewing
  • Linear TV viewing is stabilising at the 4 hours a day mark. The average viewer watched 4 hours, 1 minute of linear TV a day in 2012, compared to 4 hours, 2 minutes in 2011, according to BARB.
  • Viewers are watching 27 minutes more linear TV a day than ten years ago. 89.9% of linear TV in 2012 was watched live, as it was broadcast, compared to 90.3% in 2011.
  • BARB’s figures suggest that the Olympics coverage broadcast on the BBC did not adversely affect commercial TV viewing overall in 2012. 
  • The average person watched 2 hours, 35 minutes of commercial TV a day in 2012, a minute less than in 2011.
  • Commercial TV accounted for 66% of linear viewing, at a similar level to 2011. 
  • Commercial TV accounted for 74% of linear viewing among the younger 16-34 audience. 
  • In the last ten years, commercial TV viewing has increased by 23%.
‘Time-shifted’ TV viewing
BARB’s measurement system also captures the amount of linear TV that is recorded on digital TV recorders (DTRs) – such as Sky+, Freeview+ and Virgin Media’s TiVo – and watched within seven days of the original broadcast. It also captures any on-demand TV watched on a TV set in this period, although this is still a very small figure and BARB does not currently publish it separately.
  • 51% of UK households now own a DTR compared to 50% in 2011.
  • In households that own DTRs, 84.4% of linear TV was watched live compared to 84.7% in 2011. The level of timeshifting has been very stable since the first DTRs were released ten years ago.
  • 81% of all timeshifted viewing is watched within seven days of recording.
  • 47% of timeshifted viewing is seen within 24 hours of it being recorded.
BARB’s figures suggest that the growth in the amount of TV that is recorded and played back is slowing down. In 2010, 7.6% was time-shifted; in 2011 9.4% was time-shifted; and in 2012 10.1% was time-shifted. Once all households have the ability to digitally record TV programmes, Thinkbox expects the average level of recorded and playback TV viewing to settle at around 15% of total linear viewing, as it has in those households that do currently own DTRs.  However on-demand TV will increase as a proportion of the time-shifted total.

Additional, non-TV set viewing
BARB’s figures do not yet include TV viewed on devices other than TV sets. According to figures supplied by the UK broadcasters, viewers in the UK watched an average of 3 minutes a day of on-demand TV on non-TV set devices via services such as ITV Player, Sky Go, 4OD and BBC iPlayer. This represents an additional 1.2% of TV viewing, which is in line with BARB estimates.
With the spread of internet-connected TV sets, Thinkbox expects that some on-demand viewing, which currently takes place off the TV set, will move to the TV set, as that is the screen people prefer to watch TV on.
Commercial TV impacts
Commercial impacts (the number of TV ads watched at normal speed) during 2012 were the same as the level set in 2011, and have grown by 44% over the last ten years to this record high. The average viewer watched 47 ads a day during 2012. Collectively the UK watched an average of 2.7 billion ads a day in 2012.
Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox’s Managing Director: “Linear TV is the bedrock of how we watch TV and that is not going to change.  Its continued strength underlines viewers’ preference for watching TV as it is broadcast and on a TV set. Viewing via personal devices, which we have been able to estimate for the first time, is in comparison relatively small, but it is growing rapidly and helping TV as a whole to expand. This is great for viewers who can watch what they want, when they want; and great for advertisers for whom TV – the biggest digital medium – is expanding.”
All figures on TV viewing in 2012 will be published in Thinkbox’s Annual Review, which will be available at the beginning of March in full on Thinkbox’s website