Television viewing in the United Kingdom remains high amid coronavirus restrictions, up by almost 30% over the Easter weekend compared to the previous year and by almost double that for some groups. However, that is against a background of generally falling viewing of live television and an increase in online video viewing. If anything, it is surprising that people are not watching much more in the circumstances.

Average television viewing on Easter Monday was 3 hours 29 minutes, up 31% on the previous year. The increase for the Easter week was highest among couples with children aged 10-15, with an increase of 59% over the previous year.

For the week ending 5 April, consolidated 7-day television set viewing to channels reported by BARB was an average of 219 minutes a day, up by over 20% on the previous year, comparable to peak viewing over Christmas.

Unidentified viewing, that is all types of television use that does not involve viewing a channel or service reported by BARB, was significantly up by nearly 50% on the previous year to an average of 96 minutes a day.

With more people confined to home, viewing of television programmes on phones, tablets or computers added only 1.4% to television viewing as measured by BARB.

Although average viewing per week was significantly up, at 25 hours 45 minutes for the week ending 5 April, viewing for the same week in 2015 was 25 hours 21 minutes.

BARB Average weekly television viewing 2015-2020. Source: BARB. C7 TV Set at broadcast.

The highest audience for the week was the address by the Queen, viewed by a total of 24.3 million over 7 days, including 256,000 who watched on phones, tablets or computers, either live, or in the first week after transmission.

The BBC News at Six accounted for five of the top 15 programmes of the week, viewed by an average of 7.02 million people.

Apart from the address from the Queen, which was shown across seven channels, the highest rating programme was the perennial serial drama, Coronation Street, with a consolidated audience of 7.85 million, of which 7.73 million watched on a television. The ITV programme secured three of the top four slots during the week.

It is perhaps surprising, given that so many people are confined to their homes by coronavirus restrictions, that average television viewing is not much higher.

Despite being isolated in their homes, people watched only slightly more television than they did five years ago.

So, what else are they watching? Looking back at 2019, Thinkbox has compiled average video viewing per day, based on data from BARB, comScore, broadcaster stream data, IPA Touchpoints and Rentrak.

It amounted to an average of 4 hours and 42 minutes of viewing across all individuals, or 4 hours 13 minutes among those aged 16-34.

Across all individuals, television viewed at the time of broadcast accounted for 49.5%, while playback took another 13% and broadcaster video on demand a further 5.5%. That added up to 68% of all viewing. Subscription video on demand made up 9.6%, while YouTube accounted for 12.4%. That leaves 10% spread across other online video, adult online video, discs, Facebook, and cinema.

Among those aged 16-34, the picture was rather different. Television at the time of broadcast accounted for only 23.5% of viewing, with playback and broadcaster video on demand taking 11.8% and 9.5% respectively. Collectively, that made up only 44.8% of viewing. Meanwhile, subscription video on demand made up 17.4% and YouTube 27.3%. Put another way, various forms of online video accounted for 62.2% of all viewing among those aged 16-34.

UK video viewing 2017-2019. Source: informitv, Thinkbox, BARB, comScore, Broadcaster stream data, IPA Touchpoints, Rentrak

Reviewing comparable data from previous years, it is evident that the share of live television viewing is falling, particularly among those aged 16-34, although total video viewing has remained relatively stable.

The viewing of online subscription video services has risen, but so haas viewing of YouTube. Notably, according to these figures, those aged 16-34 watched more YouTube than live television in 2019. Viewing of time-shifted and on-demand among this age group has increased, but overall viewing of broadcaster programming has fallen.

Time will tell how household confinement may prompt a relative increase in live television viewing or accelerate the trend to watching other forms of video.

A Year in TV 2019-2020 is published by Thinkbox and is available from its web site.