Classics, Comedies & Light Entertainment See Viewing Surge in the U.K.


U.K. TV viewing has risen 24 percent since the country’s lockdown began, with audiences increasingly turning to classic TV shows, comedies, light entertainment and news, according to new research released by Thinkbox.

Viewing has increased to an average of 3 hours and 40 minutes a day, about five extra hours a week, according to Lockdown TV, commissioned by Thinkbox from Ipsos MORI, based on video diaries being kept by 12 households across the U.K.

Comedy viewership has seen a 40-percent gain in the first three weeks of lockdown. Audiences are also eager for light entertainment, notably Saturday night TV, which is up 9 percent year-on-year. Family viewing is up 37 percent, while watching alone is up 15 percent. Shows that have seen significant jumps in shared family viewing include Channel 4’s Gogglebox (up 41 percent) and In For a Penny on ITV (up 47 percent). Sky Cinema is up 48 percent.

British audiences are also taking comfort in nostalgia, embracing classic TV series such as Only Fools and Horses and Last of the Summer Wine. Meanwhile, the lack of sports has audiences watching classic matches on Sky and BT Sport and consuming more comedies and cooking shows. Viewership of news has more than doubled.

Matt Hill, research and planning director at Thinkbox, noted, “The effects of social distancing are profound. Our media habits are dramatically changing as a result of the new situations we find ourselves in and it is vital we understand what those changes mean for the TV and advertising industries. This ongoing study will do this. What is clear already is that TV has many roles to play. The huge breadth of broadcaster content—live and on-demand—is coming to the fore, with people exploring all corners of the TV universe to keep them and their families entertained.”

Ben Page, CEO of Ipsos MORI, added, “TV is again uniting Britain. We are excited to be working with Thinkbox to bring to life the role TV plays and the value it offers to audiences at a time of national crisis. New routines and habits are emerging, with TV bringing households together to seek comfort in shared experiences. It is also fascinating to see the value and trust audiences are placing in TV news, to fuel our desire to stay informed (even if we do need a little light relief afterward). Our multiple waves of rapid turnaround digital immersions with households across the country will show us the impact of these changes in the short and long term, so the industry can quickly react with responsive strategies.”

The findings have key implications for advertisers, Thinkbox says. “Viewers are watching content together that inspires ‘doing’—cooking, crafting, exercise—genres of content that they hadn’t considered before. Brands fitting these categories have an opportunity to build contextual brand awareness through advertising. Many are spending evenings watching films with their family, planning ads around family classics or nostalgic content during this time could deliver high returns. TV is not only a source of comfort at the moment, but also trust and truthfulness. While viewers are looking for reliability, this is a great opportunity to build a relationship with consumers and form brand loyalty. Advertisers should make sure they’re authentic, contextual, and respectful to the situation. Sports fans are looking for a replacement. While classic games are filling a void, big TV events are being produced to simulate the atmosphere of a sport event, and tongue-in-cheek content is emerging to open up placeholder genres or hobbies to a wider audience—all of which could allow for some clever sponsorship opportunities.”