TBI Tech & Analysis: How crime & sport are slowing UK linear declines

The average linear viewing time in the UK has spent years in decline, but Omdia’s Rob Moyser explains how crime dramas and sporting events appear to be slowing down this trend.

In 2023, linear TV viewing time fell for another successive year in the UK, decreasing by 6 minutes, reaching an average time of 2 hours and 4 minutes per person per year. This decline in viewing however was markedly shorter than the past two years (-14.8 minutes in 2021 and -11.5 minutes in 2022) giving rise to the prospect that the decline in linear viewing is starting to slow down.

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Impact assessment and outlook

One key reason for this slowdown in spring was the strong take up of premium crime dramas from the BBC and ITV in March and April. BBC crime drama Beyond Paradise and The Gold, for example, performed very strongly throughout much of March and early April with the former becoming the second most watched show over this period.

ITV, likewise, aired a series of strong crime dramas during this period including The Bay and Unforgotten, with the latter holding the top spot for four weeks straight from the 13th March to 9th April.

In July and August, viewing time actually went above the previous year. Live sporting events made a significance difference here, with Wimbledon and the FIFA Women’s World Cup (particularly the finals) closing the gap on viewing time from the previous year.

However, what ultimately pushed viewing ahead of the previous year was an uptick in viewing from Sky, with growth across a majority of its channels including Sky Sports Main Event (a channel dedicated to the biggest live events from across our Sky Sports portfolio) and Sky Sports Cricket, and Channel 5 with growth across all its channels.

Investment from both public and commercial broadcasters made this slowdown in the decline of linear viewing possible. PSB spend in first-run UK origination for dramas notably went up by 46.8% in 2022 reaching 0.34 billion, its highest total in more than a decade, while sports investment went up by 129.5% in 2021 and by 4% in 2022 reaching 0.61 billion, putting it way ahead of news and current affairs and entertainment, which prior to 2021 were the genres with the highest spend.

The excerpt above is from the ‘TV & Video Industry Developments Impact Brief – March 2024’, written by Omdia’s Rob Moyser, senior analyst for Media & Entertainment. Omdia, like TBI, is part of Informa Tech. To read this brief in full, click here (subscription required).

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