Average UK TV set viewing falls in 2014

DetailsJoseph O'Halloran | 27 February 2015

As TV viewing in the UK on tablets, smartphones and laptops continues to increase, average TV set viewing fell in 2014, driven by heaviest viewers watching less, according to research from Thinkbox.

Yet despite this, the survey from the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK – including broadcast, on-demand and interactive and whose shareholders include Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media, Turner Media Innovations and UKTV — found that total average daily TV viewing in the UK during 2014 was three hours, 44 minutes, 30 seconds a day per person. Overall, there was a decline in total TV viewing of ten minutes, 30 seconds a day compared to 2013, a fall of 4.5%. This, said the association, was entirely down to a drop in TV set viewing, which decreased by 4.7%. Viewing on other screens, such as tablets and laptops, grew year-on-year by 17%.

Yet despite the plethora of devices available on which to watch programmes, the survey found that 98.4% of the UK's TV viewing was on a TV set in 2014, 1.6% was on other screens, and that TV's weekly UK population reach in 2014 was unchanged at 94.2%. Of this, 86% of TV set viewing was on a TV set in the living room, according to BARB. Thinkbox noted that by taking the long-term perspective, TV set viewing was only 0.4% less in 2014 than it was ten years ago.

The average user watched three hours, 41 minutes of TV on a TV set — whether live/playback/on-demand within seven days of broadcast — and experienced three minutes, 30 seconds of TV via devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops mostly on-demand but some live streams.

Offering a reason for the small dip in TV set viewing, Thinkbox suggested that the fall was accounted for by the heaviest TV viewers, counted as those who were watching over an average of four hours a day, were watching less. This analysis also showed that the number of viewers who watched over four hours a day in 2014 fell by 7.2% compared with 2013.

"After years of record growth for broadcast TV as on-demand began to flower, new viewing trends are now becoming established and there's a new eco-system for TV," said Thinkbox chief executive Lindsey Clay. "It is nuanced, it raises new opportunities for advertisers, it reflects how modern viewers want to enjoy TV – and it is a royal pain in the arse for BARB to measure. But, it is here, it is the future and we should embrace it, understand it and help advertisers make the most of it because TV remains by far their most potent weapon."