There is a rising worry in the TV industry. It’s hard to quantify and it’s known as ‘unmatched viewing’.
Unmatched viewing refers to the time that audiences spend watching content that cannot be matched to broadcast TV content.
This can include gaming, old recorded content and DVDs, as well as viewing to SVOD services such as Netflix and Amazon via TV sets.
Over the past two years, we have seen a 113% rise in the number of UK households that dedicate more than half of their screen time to ‘unmatched’ content.
Logically, we can attribute this to the rise of the SVOD giants as it is the likes of Netflix where we have seen major growth in the past few years.
There are now over 10 million households in the UK with a Netflix subscription.
New Ways of Looking at the Data
On average unmatched content made up 20% of total screen time in Q4 2018, this is up from 14% in Q4 2016. On average viewers are now spending 48 mins a day on unmatched activity.
However, there are very few households for which these averages are a true reflection of their viewing habits. By interrogating respondent level BARB data at household level, we have been able to dive deeper into the proportion of unmatched viewing per individual household.
What we’ve discovered, shows how viewing behaviour is continuing to evolve and segment.
The Rise of the ‘Unmatched Household’
One of the key findings from approaching the data this way, is that there has been a significant rise in the number of UK households that spend the majority of their total time in front of the TV set, registering unmatched viewing.
In Q4 of 2016, there were 1.8m households in the UK who spent more than 50% of their screen time registering unmatched viewing, by Q4 of 2018 an additional 2 million households had moved into this space.
These 3.8 million heavy unmatched households constitute more than 14% of households in the UK.
Without trying to be the voice of doom, this is not the only observation which should worry commercial broadcasters.
We also found that there has been a significant increase in the number of households spending very little, if any of their time viewing live TV. Two years ago, there were just under 500k households who spent 5% or less of their viewing time watching live TV, by 2018 Q4 this number had risen to just under 1.3m.
Heavy-unmatched and light-live viewing households are on the up.
But, surely this segment of households still stay loyal to the nation’s favourite PSBs?
I’m afraid not…Less than a quarter of the isolated households (the segment we created of households that spend at least half of their viewing time consuming unmatched content) tune in to BBC 1 every day, and only 16% tune in to ITV.
Households where unmatched viewing is the norm are becoming increasingly difficult to reach via traditional means, making it more important than ever to analyse their viewing habits and understand when and why these viewers ever make it to live television.
These 3.8 million represent the group that could save or kill broadcast TV as we know it.
Appealing to the Unmatched Household
Below is an analysis using the 3.8m households who spend more than 50% of their screen time registering unmatched viewing.
We have created an index based on the percentage of our 3.8 million heavily-unmatched households reached vs the percentage of UK population reached. So who lives in these households? Who holds the future of TV (partly) in their remote clicking index fingers?
Well, seeing as kids and young adult channels index highly; it’s looking like these are houses of young families and millenials.
Cbeebies, Nick Jr and Sky Cinema Disney all perform well with these households enforcing the idea that there are kids watching. MTV, Comedy Central and FOX are three examples of non-kids channels that also over-index
with this audience. And ITV2 and E4 also perform relatively well in comparison with the rest of the linear TV arsenal.
So, these households don’t just contain kids, they also contain young adults.
These findings are not entirely surprising…Kids and young adults are often heavy gamers and big fans of services such as Netflix, so their presence was expected.
It’s not all doom and gloom
But, the situation isn’t all bleak.
The dissident digital channels offer a rare sighting of the viewers who are supposedly fleeing from live TV, never more to return to an EPG.
Our research has shown that these channels represent an opportunity to contact otherwise elusive viewers. In fact, they might be the key window of contact! Investigate the content and you’ll keep on discovering more clues to unravel the unmatched riddle.
The programming with highest proportions of unmatched-heavies tend to be either children’s programmes, or young adult-targeted content.
This content is (sadly) mainly from the US with Seth McFarlane’s cartoon portfolio (Family Guy etc.) packing a punch with our highly unmatched households, as well as the likes of South Park and Late Night with John Oliver.
UK ‘reality’ programming such as Geordie Shore and Celebs Go Dating also tends to over-index. Drama, sex, gossip and scandal, can still make a millennial watch live TV.
The Great British Bake Off is the gem of the PSB output for these households. A rare sighting of unmatched households watching a mainstream live programme that targets mass audience rather than niche segments? Give thanks to the Bake Off.
Ultimately, live viewing from these households is like finding a rare shiny Pokémon card. It is very unlikely that one live episode will be viewed by more than 10% of this segment of households. In the fourth quart of 2018, this only happened 77 times, and only because of Bake Off, I’m a Celeb, The Apprentice and Doctor Who.
A New Approach?
Is there another way?
We have observed that these households tend to spend more time viewing broadcaster box-sets on BVOD services than the UK average.
This is interesting as there has been a notable attempt from UK broadcasters to appeal to SVOD users by mimicking the format of SVOD platforms over the last 18 months.
They have done this by allowing users to watch episodes back-to-back online, sometimes before the content is aired live. These findings suggest that this approach could be a key factor in reaching out to an ever-increasing, elusive type of household.
The increases that we’re seeing in the number of UK households moving away from linear TV to predominantly registering unmatched contact should be ringing alarm bells for broadcasters.
It is likely that these trends are going to continue and the only way to tackle the onslaught of fragmenting, online viewing is to understand it.
Knowledge is power.
Through analysing changing viewing behaviours, we will work with broadcasters so they can base their strategies on behavioural patterns, and solve problems that have a clear causation.
We’ll find the unmatched households and we’ll work together to either bring them back into linear TV or move them into a space that appeals to the developing viewing need-state of the modern-day household.
By Matt Ross, Head of Insight @ Digital.i
and Sophia Vahdati, Creative Consultant @ Digital.i