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BARB Fingers SVOD for Rise in 'Unidentified Viewing'
BARB's best guess of growing SVOD viewing habits is that Netflix, Amazon, and Sky Now are the cause, accounting for 19% of total activity in 2018

As the UK’s media landscape further fragments, subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) viewing on the TV set continues to march upwards, taking up 19% of total activity in 2018, according to latest figures from ratings agency BARB.

Since the main SVOD services, including Netflix and Amazon, have so far refused to share their data with BARB, the measurement service is making a best guess about changing habits and trends.

It found that time spent viewing a channel or on-demand service that does not report to BARB—so-called unidentified viewing—had risen 3% on 2017, or from 40 to 46 minutes a day on average.

Viewing patterns roughly approximate those of traditional TV behaviour—viewing increases in the evenings and over holiday periods, but there are some notable exceptions.

Last summer’s World Cup, during which England fared better than usual, saw a boost in viewing to the TV for watching coverage of rights holders ITV and BBC. Unidentified viewing sources fell at the same time. 

Like total TV set viewing, unidentified viewing also increases at the weekend, but to a greater degree, suggesting that audiences are waiting for the weekend to binge watch an SVOD box set—or it could be to do some gaming—BARB just doesn’t know for sure. 

"We can’t be certain, but we do have a growing body of evidence that points to SVOD services being a primary catalyst" in driving the growth in unidentified viewing, BARB says.

BARB has been asking respondents about their SVOD subscriptions for several years and used the most recent survey to extrapolate that 11.6 million UK homes had at least one of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Now TV in Q3 2018—a year-on-year increase of 22%. Netflix is the main driver of this increase, having added 2.2 million homes compared to Q3 2017. Amazon too has shown impressive growth, adding more than a million homes, while Now TV has added just under 200,000. The number of homes with two or more services has gone up 40% from 2.8 million to just under 4 million in the past year.

It finds a positive correlation between Netflix landing on Sky Q boxes at the beginning of last November and a boost in unidentified viewing in Sky homes. 

"We cannot definitively say that this was due to Netflix viewing, but there is a strong likelihood that this is the cause," BARB says.

When the next set of figures are released in February it will be able to see whether Netflix has also seen a corresponding increase in subscribers following its availability on Sky Q, or whether this trend is simply down to households that already subscribe to both Netflix and Sky choosing an easier route to access their Netflix accounts.

Another finding from BARB's report examined the social grade SVOD subscribers. Netflix and Sky’s Now TV are in line with the average number of leading ABC1 households that subscribe to SVOD across the UK, with 63% each. Amazon though seems to be scoring a higher percentage of the advertiser-prized ABC1 profile—indexing 73%, or 38% ahead of the UK average. 

The presence of young children, and the unique pressures that they bring, may be playing a part here, posits BARB: "The double carrot of on-demand content and next day delivery of urgently needed household items may be enticing these ABC1 families towards Amazon." 

That said, the profile of households with all three services is even more heavily ABC1—with 77% falling into this category. The ability—and willingness—of ABC1 households to pay for three services is clear which is either a plus or a minus for the prospects of pending SVOD launches such as that from UK broadcaster ITV.

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