Report reveals latest UK TV watching trends


People are filling their homes with more televisions than ever and on average are watching TV over an hour a day more than they think, a report from TV Licensing reveals today

An ICM poll conducted for TV Licensing's TeleScope report reveals adults in Britain think they watch an average of less than 20 hours of TV a week, or around three hours a day, but official statistics collected by the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB) show the true average in 2010 was more than 30 hours a week, or over four hours a day.

The statistics show that the older we are, the more TV we tend to watch, and the amount we watch is increasing: the BARB average for all ages (including children) is 28 hours a week, which is three hours more than in 2001, not including the TV we now watch on equipment other than our TV sets.

The report, which provides a focus on the nation’s viewing habits, also shows people now have an average of 2.4 rooms with TVs in them, and by 2020, expect that to rise to three.

The findings are among many in the report which demonstrate the increasing importance of the nation's love affair with television. TeleScope shows that love is growing and evolving - not just in terms of how much and what we watch, but how, when and where we watch it.

UK TV watching trends are changing

Photograph of Pipa Doubtfire.
Pippa Doubtfire, Head of Revenue Management for BBC TV Licensing, said: "TV has changed dramatically in the last 20 years - not just in the nature and range of programmes being made, but in the many ways people can now watch them.

"This report reflects the UK's great passion for TV and shows that, while much is changing, some things will always remain reassuringly the same: great TV will continue to unite people, providing a unique medium for entertainment, education, information and debate for years to come."



Other key statistics from the report include:

How are we watching?

  • Over 9.5m TV sets were bought across the UK in 2010 - double the number sold in 2002. The most dramatic sales increase has been of flat screen TVs with screens 40” or bigger, from fewer than 600,000 sales in 2006 to over 2 million in 2010, according to market specialists GfK Retail & Technology.
  • We’re also buying far more flat screen TVs than our European neighbours: 43m sets were sold in Britain between 2004 and 2010, compared to 28m in Germany and 27m in France.
  • 125,000 of TVs sold in 2010 were 3D-enabled and, if the growth rate from the last three months continues, 3D TV sales are expected to reach around half a million in 2011.

What are we watching?

  • The most 'time-shifted' programme watched on the BBC iPlayer in 2010 was, ironically, Matt Smith's debut as Doctor Who, with over 2.2m requests (on top of the 12.3m who watched it live). So while catch-up is thriving, it has some way to go to rival the 17.7m who tuned in live to watch The X Factor final on ITV, or the 17.4m who watched England's World Cup exit to Germany

When are we watching?

  • Women watch four hours of TV a week more than men (32 vs 28 hours) according to BARB, but underestimate their viewing time more - with the TV Licensing/ICM poll showing women think they watch just 21 hours a week, compared to 20 hours for men
  • The older we are the more TV we watch, and the more we underestimate our viewing hours - over 65s watch 40 hours of TV a week, twice as much as those aged 16-24 and well over the 23.5 hours they think they watch
  • With the emergence of catch-up TV, the concept of prime-time is changing, primarily among younger people - those aged 18-24 are almost evenly divided on when their peak viewing hour is between 7pm and 10pm (with each hour getting 27%, 25% and 29% of the vote respectively), while those aged 35-44 were more in agreement that the peak hour is 8-9pm (with 40% opting for this period)

Where are we watching?

  • We want TV sets in more rooms over the next decade, with 8% expecting to have a dedicated cinema room by 2020 and the same proportion planning to put a set in their bathrooms
  • Ten years ago, those aged 18-24 were the group least likely to have TV sets in their bedrooms (54%), but are now most likely (79%)
  • Despite the rise in popularity of catch up services, only around 0.2% of UK adults exclusively watch TV online across an average week
  • 72% of us typically eat at least one of our main meals of the day in front of the box - although those with children are less likely (59%) to have dinner in front of the TV than those without (67%).
Photograph of Iain Logie Baird.
Iain Logie Baird, grandson of the inventor of the first television set, John Logie Baird, and curator at the National Media Museum in Bradford, who has penned the foreword to the TeleScope report, said: ”When my grandfather famously unveiled the world’s first working television system in early 1926, people were astonished. Although cinema and radio were established by 1926, television still seemed like science fiction. Since that giant leap, technology has never stopped advancing and today we are witnessing faster developments than ever before.



“In profound ways, television builds collective identities via mass amplification of experience and memory, while influencing individual creativity.  It invites us into other worlds so that we may escape the hectic pace of our own. It expands our understanding of the world stage and the roles we can play in it. There is no question television is playing a more central role in our lives than ever.”

Other experts, including Ben Preston, editor of the Radio Times, and Professor Ian Hutchby, a professor of sociology from the University of Leicester, offer their predictions in the report for the next decade of TV.

Photograph of Ben Preston.
Ben Preston said: “Technology may change how we watch TV, but those changes won’t be as dramatic as most experts predict. Millions more of us will watch television on the move, thanks to cheaper, lighter, better handheld devices. And many more of us will chat to each other electronically about programmes while we’re watching thanks both to those new handheld devices and to the new computer/television hybrids that are already starting to appear in the living room."

"But what we actually watch won’t change that much at all: people will still want news, sport, drama, films and entertainment shows. Why? Because people like to find out what’s going on and chat about it. And people will still complain that television is dumbing down because they forget television's most vital function is to give us something mildly diverting to chill out to after a hard day at work or school."


Almost 97% of households have televisions and there are more than 25 million TV Licences in force. You need a TV Licence to watch or record programmes as they are being shown on TV, regardless of the device you use, how you receive them, or what channel you watch.

TV Licensing aims to maximise the money received from the licence fee, and does this by collecting the fee as efficiently as possible. In 2009/10, TV Licensing collected an extra £85m for BBC programmes and services and kept evasion at a low of around 5%.

It's now easier than ever to buy a TV Licence. Visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk/info or call 0300 790 6112.


Notes to Editors:

For more information please call the TV Licensing press office on 020 7544 3144 or email media.enquiries@tvlicensing.co.uk

The following is available upon request from the press office:

  • A copy of the report, along with separate images of key charts within it and an over-arching 'infographic' showing the main statistics in one image
  • Short videos of Iain Logie-Baird, Ben Preston and Dr Brian Young, all of whom may be available for interview, along with TV Licensing spokespeople. A short vox-pop style video revealing views of the general public on their TV viewing habits is also available.
  • Stock images of people watching TV in different ways - including on smart-phones, laptops and PCs

The following sources have been used to support the report and this press release:

  • TV Licensing/ICM poll – conducted online for TV Licensing in December 2010 and January 2011. Sample size was 2,066 UK adults.
  • GfK Retail and Technology –GB Panelmarket Flat TV sales statistics; Regional Statistics exclude online sales and sales by Mail Order Houses and Pure Online Players
  • BARB (Broadcasters Audience Research Board) – TV viewing statistics
  • BBC – audience research statistics (including BBC iPlayer data)

Who needs a TV Licence?

If you use or install television equipment to watch or record television programmes as they are being shown on TV, you need to be covered by a valid TV Licence.  Viewing television without a licence risks prosecution and a fine of up to £1,000. A colour TV Licence currently cost £145.50. A black and white TV Licence currently costs £49.00.

Paying for a TV Licence:

TV Licensing aims to make it as easy as possible for people to buy a TV Licence, which is why there are many ways to pay. Visit www.tvlicensing.co.uk/info or call 0300 790 6112 for more information on any of the following payment methods:

  • Online by Direct Debit or with a debit or credit card. Monthly, quarterly or annual Direct Debit schemes are available.
  • Over-the-counter at any of more than 22,000 PayPoint outlets
  • By debit or credit card over the phone – call 0300 790 6112
  • By post – send a cheque payable to TV Licensing to:
  • TV Licensing, Darlington, DL98 1TL,  or fill in a Direct Debit form
In weekly or monthly instalments on our cash payment plan either over the counter at any of more than 22,000 PayPoint outlets, online, by SMS or by phone

General information about TV Licensing is available in other languages: