2020 The evolution of TV audiences

Date posted: 28 Jan 2020

Posted by: Smithfield

Post category: Insights

TV advertising delivers the most profit, at the greatest cost efficiency for the lowest risk (thinkbox) – whether in the short term or the long term. And 2020 is going to be the year that TV is going to get even better, as we’re going to be able to measure the evolving viewers even more effectively.

We take a look at the year ahead for TV advertising across three key areas:

  • Viewing habits
  • Measurement
  • Subscriptions.

Viewing habits are changing

TV in the UK still provides vast audiences that we can reach quickly and do so cost effectively. We continue to hear how the younger audiences are abandoning conventional viewing routes and not adopting the viewing habits of their parents: younger TV viewers were down circa 20% last year and this trend is not likely to change.

Thus, there has been a shift in advertisers’ media focus, with brands that target the younger audience favouring an online route to market.  This has left those targeting the older viewers still using linear TV, and programming has reflected that.  However, with changes afoot in how we measure TV viewing, we should soon be able to get a clearer understanding of the younger audiences viewing habits.

TV viewing stats


Measurement is a key focus for any brand.  However, with younger TV audiences migrating from the large screen in the lounge to watching mobile devices and laptops, counting the audience in that expanding environment has understandably been behind the curve.

This is about to change in 2020, with the launch of BARB’s Project Dovetail, which will help media planners and advertisers understand their audiences better. Project Dovetail covers three key elements that have been lacking until now.

  • Programme Average Audiences will report on viewing figures across four screens (TV, tablets, PC and smartphone).
  • Reach and time spent viewing will be covered across TV, tablets and PCs.
  • BVOD campaign performance is under development but will eventually allow us to understand and optimise BVOD campaigns for clients. A huge breakthrough.

The change in measurement will give us a wider view of audience profiles and capture the key younger audience across these different devices, giving TV media planners even wider insights into how to optimise clients’ TV budgets.

Subscriptions continue to grow

Sky’s successful use of income coming from subscription revenue rather than advertising has led ITV’s boss, Dame Carolyn McCall, to argue that the TV Licence Fee makes the BBC a defacto subscription service.  She offers us an ad free service on the ITV Hub and has got into bed with the BBC to offer us a back catalogue for a small regular payment.  This shows that ITV are clearly looking to reduce their reliance on ad revenue too.

Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Google & Disney are all well along the road to providing us the subscription service of our choice, and from which there surely has to be a casualty in due course: we are already seeing Disney pulling content from Netflix.  It will ultimately become a competition of who has the deepest pockets and has the content that will attract the audiences who will be increasingly concerned about the cost to subscribe to all of the services.

But that’s the long game, and it’s on a global level.

Overall, we believe that it’s an exciting year ahead. The tools that are coming will provide us with more opportunities to help clients take advantage of TV in even more effective ways, again moving TV forward as one of the main channels that can drive results at scale.

If you are new to TV, or feel your current TV ad is not performing for you, we have a current TV offer in place where we will either produce your ad or conduct an audit for you – all for free. Click here to find out more.

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