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2010 set for TV viewing high

08 December 2010

One of the standout trends of 2010 is just how much television people are watching.

With only a few weeks of the year left to go, one can comfortably say that 2010 will break viewing figure records.

Average weekly viewing figures are consistently ahead this year compared to every year going back to 1992, when audience measurement outfit Barb’s records begin.

Graphs are always a bit painful to look at online, but it's worth clicking on the link to this one (from Barb's website). At the top, there's a big red line representing average weekly viewing figures for 2010. It sails above all the other squiggly lines bunched together underneath, which cover the years 2001-2009. A bit like Usain Bolt in the 100m, 2010 is out there all on its own, way ahead of the pack.

The year starts strongly, with people watching an average of nearly 34 hours of TV each a week - almost two hours more than the nearest comparable year.

The difference is most clearly marked in the late summer and autumn.

So what’s going on? At a time of strong competition from the internet, social media and gaming, it’s remarkable that TV viewing levels are not just holding steady but are actually growing.

Does the economic downturn mean that people are going out less and watching more TV? Is it simply that there is more TV and there are more channels to watch? After all, Sky subscriptions have soared past the 10m mark this year.

Here’s the views of ratings expert Philip Reevell, md of City Broadcasting, who blogs about TV at Reevellsratings: “I don’t think it’s possible to under-estimate the importance of ITV’s programming surge, particular this autumn. With a portfolio of The X Factor, Downton Abbey, I’m a Celebrity and 50 years of Coronation Street, the channel has created a huge amount of talk-about programming.

“It has put television at the centre of the tabloid news agenda, more so than ever, and the huge figures for X Factor provide a massive boost to the idea of watching television. I’m sure that this has helped with the overall time spent watching television – it’s seen by people as something to do which they will be talking about with their friends and colleagues.

“More generally the increase in overall viewing reflects the sense that viewers who might have spent money on going out are now being more cautious and staying in to watch more TV. But I’m sure it’s as much a matter of television being popular, rather than simply being a more cost effective form of entertainment.”

Indeed, it’s been a year of big ‘event TV’ - from the World Cup, the PM leadership debates, the last Big Brother, strong soaps, to a reinvigorated Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC. Proving that TV, despite stiff competition, has lost none of its ability to draw in mass audiences.

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