The average amount of time spent viewing a television set the United Kingdom in 2019 was 242 minutes a day, or just over four hours, which was the same as in 2010. However, average viewing of television programmes in 2019 was 191 minutes a day, or just over three hours. Around an hour a day was spent watching something other than a television programme.
As measured by the television research organisation BARB, viewing of television programming has generally been declining in terms of daily minutes and in 2019 was down 36 minutes a day on the average of four years previously, a fall of 15%.
During the coronavirus restrictions in 2020, average daily television viewing has risen back to the level of 2015. It is surprise that it is not higher, given that there is a large captive audience, largely confined to their homes.
By the start of 2020, over half of homes in the United Kingdom had one or more services from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Now TV. That amounted to 14.3 million households with one of these services, up by 2.0 million in a year.
Netflix was available in 12.4 million homes in the United Kingdom, or just under 45% of households. Amazon was in 7.1 million. 6.0 million homes, or over a fifth of households, had access to two or more services.
As online video subscription levels have risen, there has been a corresponding increase in so-called unidentified viewing, which is that not recognised by BARB. This includes viewing programmes more than 28 days after broadcast, gaming, watching DVDs and watching online video subscription services or online video platforms.
There is a very close correlation between the rise in the number of homes with an online video subscription service and the amount of ‘unidentified viewing’.
This unidentified viewing now accounts for 55 minutes of television set viewing per day on average.
BARB data reveal that unidentified use of the television set is increasingly becoming a primetime activity. In the 9pm to 10pm slot, for which broadcasters typically reserve their prime programming, they are increasingly competing for viewers, not only with other channels but with other sources, notably online video subscription services.
There were 110 days in 2019 when aggregate unidentified viewing was ahead of any single BARB-reported channel in the 9pm slot, almost double the 2018 figure. That excludes the use of games consoles.
That means the most popular programme at nine o’clock in the evening on three out of ten nights may not have been from a traditional broadcaster.
BARB is planning to attribute unidentified viewing to particular video services at an aggregate level. It began rolling out router meters to panel homes in October 2019.
It says that should these services decide to be BARB-reported, it will be able to measure their measure audiences to their individual programmes with the same technology we use to measure viewing to on-demand programming from broadcasters.
Of course, Netflix, Amazon and Sky know exactly what their viewers are watching but are not inclined to share that information. Yet it seems to be growing.