Joseph O'Halloran ©RapidTVNews | 15-08-2011

Despite many non-linear digital alternatives increasingly available, there is still a lot of life in linear commercial TV in the UK with viewing increasing by 48 minutes a week to over 18 hours from January to June 2011.

Moreover, according to data released by Thinkbox— the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, in all its forms. Its shareholders are Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media, Turner Media Innovations and UKTV— despite the huge popularity of services such as the BBC iPlayer, 4oD and the ITV Player, 91% of TV viewing is to live TV and 9% is time-shifted.

Indeed Thinkbox suggests that instead of being a threat to linear TV as anticipated, the amount of time spent watching linear commercial TV channels in the UK during January to June 2011 increased to a new record for the period, with social media commentary and new TV technologies actually making live viewing even more compelling.

In detail, the average TV viewer in the UK watched 18 hours, 9 minutes of commercial linear TV a week during the first six months of 2011, an increase of 48 minutes a week on the same period in 2010, and an increase of 1 hour, 47 minutes a week on the five-year average for the period. The data, supplied by Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), also revealed that commercial TV accounted for 64% of viewing during the first six months of the year, up from 62% in the same period last year.

This drove total viewing, including BBC channel, to grow marginally by 6 minutes a week during the first six months of the year with the average person watching a total of 28 hours, 21 minutes a week of linear TV.

Attributing reasons for this increase, Thinkbox proposes that the continued growth underlines the primacy of the live TV schedule. Specifically it says that social media is galvanising audiences around watching and sharing TV ‘live’ via a second screen. Three-quarters of those with broadband and digital TV have, in the words of Thinkbox, ‘two-screened’.

In addition it believes that new TV technologies, such as digital recorders and HDTV, enhance the TV experience and magnetise viewers to the TV and that on-demand TV is encouraging more linear TV viewing with 89% of on-demand TV being to catch-up with linear TV. According to BARB, non-live, ‘time-shifted’ viewing accounted for 9% of the UK’s TV consumption during January to June 2011. This has increased from 7.1% in the same period in 2010. In households that own digital television recorders such as Sky+ or Freeview+, said to be 47% of households, average time-shifting represented 14.7% of total viewing. This figure has increased from 13.7% in the same period last year.

There has also been a marked commercial benefit from this increase in viewing. Thinkbox says that commercial impacts, the number of ads viewed at normal speed, during January to June 2011 were up 4.7% on the same period in 2010, growing 22.1% over the last five years to a new record high. The average viewer watched 47 ads a day during the first six months of 2011 compared to 45 ads during the same period last year, adding up to 2.7 billion TV ads seen at normal speed every day in the UK.

Commented Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox’s Managing Director: “We’ve been saying for a while that linear TV viewing couldn’t keep breaking records forever and that it had to stabilise at some point. It appears that this is now happening – although, within this, commercial TV is still growing a little, which is great news for advertisers and a testament to the choice and quality it offers. On-demand TV is expanding total TV by adding to this stable linear base. What is clear is that every new technology that joins TV – from connected TV sets to social media – is making it even more enjoyable for viewers and even more effective for advertisers.”