Average weekly television viewing for January in the United Kingdom appears to be down on previous years. Viewing in January 2018 was down by around 9% on 2015. This follows an apparent trend in fewer hours spent watching traditional television.

In the first four calendar weeks of 2018, average viewing of all or any television was 25 hours and 6 minutes per week. That is just over three and a half hours a day.

However, in the first four weeks of 2017, average viewing over the first four weeks was 25 hours and 41 minutes a week, which is over half an hour more than in 2018.

Interestingly, average daily and weekly reach also fell by 1.9 and 1.1% respectively to 75.1% and 92.2%. That is still an estimated 44.5 million people a day, or 55.3 million a week.

It seems that 600,000 fewer people in the United Kingdom watched television on an average day in January 2018 than in the same month the previous year.

So is this a sign of a gradual fall in television viewing? Not necessarily. It could simply be that the reporting week started on a Monday in 2018 and on Sunday the previous year.

If we compare to figures for 2016, where the first reporting week also started on a Monday, average viewing was 26 hours and 52 minutes per week. That is around three hours and fifty minutes a day, or over 100 minutes a week more than in a comparable period in 2018.

What about 2015? If we look at the first four full weeks in January, which does not include public holidays, average viewing per week was 27 hours and 25 minutes. That is nearly two hours and twenty minutes a week more than a similar period in 2018. Furthermore the daily and weekly reach were 4.0% and 1.86% higher in 2015.

Now, these differences are not huge but seem significant. There is normally variation in viewing hours from week to week. It depends on many factors, including the strength of programming, but also on the weather and world events. The main variation is seasonal, with lighter viewing in the summer months in the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, the overall trend appears to be a decline in total television viewing, as a comparison of average weekly viewing over three years suggests.

Average weekly television viewing 2015-2017. Source: BARB

Three and a half hours a day, or over a day a week, still represents a lot of television viewing. But the decline seems evident. We will continue to watch this closely.