A billion minutes of television are viewed on computers, tablets and smartphones every week in the United Kingdom. It sounds like a lot, but it only accounts for about 1-1.5% on top of traditional television viewing. New figures show for the first time who is viewing online television services based on traditional panel measurements in the United Kingdom. The findings are rather surprising.

BARB, the industry audience measurement organisation, has been working for some time on aligning measurement of online viewing with its traditional panel based system. Known as Project Dovetail, it will use people-based panel data to provide demographic context for the device-based census data from the population at large.

In other words, it will allow reporting on who is watching online television services in comparable terms to traditional television. Regular reports will not be available until March 2018, but a preview of figures from September 2017 makes interesting reading.

These figures cover computers and tablets. They do not yet take into account smartphones, which might significantly affect the profiles.

Those aged 4-15 account for 8% of viewing across the main online television players. The 16-34 age group makes up another 22% of viewing. So, almost 70% of online viewing on these services is among those aged 35 or older, with those aged over 55 viewing more than any of the other age groups. This reflects television viewing generally, but clearly shows that online viewing is not limited to younger viewers.

BARB Online Television Sept 2017 All viewing - Age. Source: BARB.

The 16-34 age group accounts for only 15% of all television viewing, so 22% of online viewing is relatively higher, but they are still among the minority in terms of time viewed. For the BBC iPlayer, this age group accounts for 18% of viewing. However, for the All 4 service, the figure rises to 42%.

When split by on-demand and live viewing through these online services, only 14% of live viewing was by people aged under 35, compared to just under 40% of all on-demand viewing.

A striking finding is that the 60% of viewing to broadcaster player apps was from females. 65% of viewing of the BBC iPlayer was from females. Only on Sky Go was the balance reversed, with 58% of viewing from males, reflecting the sports programming available on this service.

Online Television Sept 2017 All viewing - Gender. Source: BARB.

Females account for 69% of on-demand viewing, ranging from 51% on Sky Go to 77% on ITV Hub.

The gender balance is reversed for live online viewing, to 59% male by viewing time, ranging from 44% for BBC iPlayer to 72% on All 4.

The amount of time spent viewing through computers and tablets adds just over 1% to the consolidated 7-day TV viewing in a week. So while these devices offer additional opportunities for viewing, they are not replacing television viewing in general.

Computers and tablets had an average weekly viewing reach of around 7% across these services, rising to just under 8% for those aged 16-34. So on average, fewer than one in ten people are using computers and tablets to access these services.

BARB panel data can identify just how many viewers are added to television reach with the inclusion of viewing on computers and tablets.

Across all individuals, including those without a television set viewing on computers and tablets delivers incremental reach of 2% on television set viewing in the week. For those aged 16-34 it adds nearly 4% to their weekly reach totals. For children aged 4-15, computer device viewing delivers incremental reach of 1.5%, while there is a similar uplift of 1.6% for those aged 35-54.

There may be limitations in the data, but for the first time it enables online television viewing on computers and tablets to be measured in a comparable way to traditional television.

The BARB figures suggest that online viewing of these broadcaster services on computers and tablets has broad appeal and is certainly not limited to younger viewers, but that it remains a relatively small proportion of the overall viewing of television programmes.