After much delay, BARB has produced the first digital TV viewing
figures for a seven-day period (for the week ending 7 November).
Available only to BARB subscribers, the figures cover just Sky Digital
homes. Unsurprisingly, given the host of new channels digital offers,
share of viewing for the terrestrial channels was significantly lower
than the UK average.
It is still very early days in terms of both the measurement of digital
audiences and the audience’s relationship with the new platform. While
one week’s viewing figures are unlikely to provide the model for future
viewing patterns, the initial picture that emerges is that ITV, BBC 1
and, perhaps surprisingly, BBC 2, are the three most-watched channels in
Sky Digital homes. This is true for both audience size and the average
A look at the amount of time each of the top 20 channels is being
watched illustrates how some stations with only a small reach* can still
clock up a substantial number of minutes viewed. This is the rationale
behind niche channels, where audience figures may initially look small
but those interested parties are likely to tune in frequently and for
For example, Channel 5 has a higher weekly reach (50 per cent) than Sky
One (47 per cent), but a lower amount of average minutes viewed. This
means that more people flick to Channel 5 than Sky One during the week,
but they are watching for a much shorter time than those who stick with
Most of the channels that appear in the top 20 by audience are familiar
brands - Living, Nickelodeon, Sky’s film channels and UK Gold -
alongside the main terrestrial channels. Only two digital-only channels
make it on to the list - Sky Premier 3 and 4 - illustrating the allure
of movie channels.
*Weekly reach is the percentage of people who tune in to a channel for
three or more minutes across the week.