Julian Clover takes a snapshot of the UK multichannel television market.
One of the staples of television audiences is the overnight figures, of the kind that lead the bulletins on Boxing Day, when there’s nothing else to report other than the success of Wallace and Gromit. On demand television changes that, further eroding that water cooler moment.
Since December last year BARB, the organisation that collects UK audience data, has been including audiences for on demand viewing from digital cable. BARB has been reporting seven-day video catch-up since 1991, and given that nobody can apparently work their VCRs, on demand data is arguably of greater significance.
The rollout of AGB Nielsen Media Research’s Unitam meter as part of a multi-million pound project began in 2006 when the Sky+ personal video recorder was added to BARB data. Only views that are a direct match to the original broadcast programme are counted. So for example when the BBC iPlayer ran highlights of the Sports Personality of the Year, it wouldn’t show up, whereas the complete two hour broadcast would have done.
Around 55% of BARB panel homes with digital cable currently have the Unitam meter, a figure that is being progressively increased.
Since September, Freesat homes have also been included in the BARB panel.
A snapshot of multichannel homes between December 2007 and December 2008 shows a fall in the number of hours being spent a week in front of the box. From 27 hours and 58 minutes witnessing “Any TV” in December 2007, the figure had fallen to 27 hours and 41 minutes 12 months later.
It is the Big Five channels (BBC One, BBC Two, ITV1, Channel 4 and Five), that have largely taken a pounding, though the RTL-owned Five has bucked the trend with a 0.2 percentage point increase over the year. Channel 4 also added 2pp to its +1 hour channel, the only one of the Big Five to have such a service, though still ending in negative territory overall.
Into true multichannel territory and Sky 1, which has gone through a relaunch in 2008, and is seeing the benefits of commissions made by its now former controller Richard Wolfe, has added 2pp to reach 1.3pp. Yet this still only accounts for 21 minutes viewing time per week, and even in multichannel households that are often paying in excess of £20 per month for basic services alone, over half the viewing time is spent with the Big Five. Sky 1 has also benefitted from a return to UK cable following the settlement of its long running carriage fee spat with Virgin Media in November.
The most watched individual channel is ITV2, closely followed by ITV3, with both channels benefitting from cross promotion and carriage on the Freeview DTT platform. If you care to count Sky Sports’ four channel service as a single entity then it takes the top slot. In the same vein, Sky Movies suite of channels is ahead of both Sky Sports 1 and Sky 1.
Despite the continuing emergence of Setanta Sports, the Sky Sports channels have increased their December audiences, while the flagship Setanta Sports 1 has only gained 0.1 percentage point. The remaining Setanta channels, as is the case with many others, do not trouble the scorers.