A Tour of the UK’s TV Viewing Habits

Ever since the Industrial Revolution began altering the landscape in the 18th century, the UK has been divided by cultural and economic differences. These variances have, in turn, influenced the way different parts of the UK consume TV content.

The UK is a hotbed of local dialects, markets and customs, with playful stereotypes and tribalism forming the bedrock of its collective culture. For example, to the North of England, Southerners are seen as ‘fairies’; 'soft', 'arrogant' and 'work shy'. They all shop at Waitrose and drink terrible beer. When it comes to Southern views on the North, the words ‘tight’, ‘uncouth’ and ‘undecipherable’ become part of the popular lexicon. They obsess over gravy and just don’t understand Tube etiquette. Yet despite the perceived differences, we all share an enduring love for TV.

A Patchwork of TV Viewing Habits

Depending on where in the UK you live, however, your viewing habits may well differ to those of somebody living 100 miles away. Research from TV Licensing shows that 28% of people who live in the North West have breakfast in front of the TV – more so than any other region – whilst Londoners have the highest propensity for TV dinners, with 74% of those surveyed claiming to do so.

Additionally, London typically buys the most TVs – with 1,625 procured over the course of 2010 compared to just 224 in South West England – whilst the Capital also has the highest uptake of smartphone technology in the UK. This may be attributable to wage distribution in the UK, with research from the Mirror-led Ampp3d report showing how only London and the South East sit above the UK average of £27,017; partially explaining why inhabitants of the South tend to consume more luxury and high-end goods on average. Additionally, unemployment rates are also highest in the North East, Midlands and North West, though London also features above the national average, along with Wales.

Where is the Most TV Viewed?

In terms of the amount of TV each region watches, the North East leads the way, with the average inhabitant watching 34.7 hours of telly a week; a lot of that shared family viewing, which has a higher prevalence outside of London and other major cities throughout the UK. Border and Scotland make up the top three, suggesting that colder climes have a significant influence on TV viewing habits; indeed, BARB in it’s Annual Viewing Report tells us how 70% of year-on-year variability in viewing figures can be accredited to the weather.

Though Londoners are also resistant to fluctuations in temperature and precipitation, a wealth of distractions and notoriously frantic lifestyles mean the Capital watches less TV than any other region; the 27.6 hours viewed each week is behind the East of England (27.8 hours) and the South West of England (28.4 hours). Viewers living within the Wales & West region watch an average of 30.9 hours a week, whilst Northern Irish audiences view 31.5 hours a week.

Who Watches What, Where?

Further research from TV Licensing highlights what types of programming make the populations of different regions happiest, with 96% of Northern Irish viewers citing general entertainment as the genre they most enjoy. However, Northern Irish viewers, alongside those in the Westcountry and Tyne Tees, also place the greatest importance on localised, tailored TV content that serves communities, with viewers in London, Wales and the South East significantly less fussed.

For the Welsh it's all about sport, with 82% of those sampled claiming it as their favourite – a preference they share with the South West of England, which watches more sport a week (7.76 hours) than any other region. News and current affairs content is also very popular in the South West.

As for the Midlands – that strange hinterland between the ‘North’ and ‘South’ – here is where more factual programmes are viewed than anywhere else in the UK, with the average viewer watching over 5 hours of such content a week. However, Midlanders are generally happiest when tickling their funny bones with a slice of humour. Comedy also sits well with audiences in the South East of England, with 97% citing such programming as the type that brings them the most joy. Religious content retains a stronghold in Scotland alongside children's programming, whilst music content enjoys strong backing in the North East and London, which also exhibits quite an appetite for drama – as does the South East.

How We Watch TV

When it comes to dual-screen viewing, Ofcom reports that Wales leads the way, with 52% of a sample study claiming to do so regularly. Scotland follows with 41%, trailed by England (37%) and Northern Ireland (25%). Whittling the figures down to the number of adults who regularly research a TV ad online, again Wales leads the way with 10%, followed by England (9%), Scotland (8%) and Northern Ireland (1%). One characteristic that every part of the UK shares, however, is the enduring dominance of live TV as part of an individual’s media consumption habits.

Next Stop: Regional TV Advertising Opportunities

The above nevertheless demonstrates how the way we consume television content varies by what we watch, how much we watch and how we watch, depending on lifestyle and geographical factors. For advertisers, such variations can be hugely beneficial, in that they provide identifiable demographics and areas to target, with the TV market now affording businesses numerous platforms through which to reach such specific geographical locations, audience groups and areas of interest.

Sky Adsmart, for example, now enables TV advertisers to pinpoint TV audiences by postal code and mosaic lifestyle factors; brands can exclusively target TV viewers with a suburban-mindset or communities within a distinct post code, for example. Such a tool significantly improves the cost-efficiency of a TV advertising campaign by eliminating viewing groups of no relevance to the brand and its offerings, with frequency caps ensuring further control.

ITV and Channel 4 also cater for localised TV advertising strategies with their respective regional networks, allowing smaller businesses and those testing the waters to trial their campaigns on a smaller scale prior to national roll outs whilst still obtaining the prestige that accompanies a brand advertising on TV.

Guerillascope itself is well-versed in planning targeted TV advertising strategies that reach specific audiences. Discover just how our analysis-based TV advertising service can support the growth of your business today – call 0800 357 675.