Record number of viewers tune into commercial TV

Commercial television has maintained the record level of viewing figures it recorded in the first quarter of 2008, despite destabilising upheavals being experienced within the broadcasting companies and the arrival of more online distractions, such as Twitter.

The average person in the UK watched 17 hours and 24 minutes of commercial TV a week for the first quarter of 2009, according to the Broadcaster Audience Research Board. This represents a 1.1% increase in commercial TV’s share of total broadcast TV to 63.5%.

Shows from commercial channels that pulled in strong audiences outside the soaps include Dancing on Ice, Whitechapel, Harry Hill’s TV Burp, Celebrity Big Brother, Shameless, Big Chef takes on Little Chef and UEFA Champions League.

Total broadcast TV viewing, including BBC channels, remained stable year-on-year at 27 hours and 24 minutes a week. BARB also reports that 40% of total TV viewing is of non-terrestrial channels.

This stability in TV viewing could reflect the impact of the economic downturn that has encouraged consumers to stay at home.

Tess Alps, chief executive of TV marketing body Thinkbox, says of the figures: “This is good news for advertisers and a vote of confidence in commercial broadcasting.”

However, broadcasters, including ITV, Channel 4 and Five, have warned that deep cuts are expected in programming investment this year. Observers say that this may have an impact on commercial TV’s future popularity.

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