Tag Archives: TV

England’s Euro 2016 TV audience a record low

In the past few weeks, the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) have released the viewing figures for England’s Euro 2016 campaign and in this blog we compare them to the figures from previous tournaments which we compiled for our comprehensive research into audience drivers.

In short, the news is not good for the Football Association or England’s sponsors – viewers over the four games averaged just 8.9m – lower than any of the previous seven tournaments they played in (back to and including Euro 2000). Indeed, this is down over a third on the average 14.5m households tuning in to those tournaments.  These figures are taken from BARB’s weekly top 30 figures which measure the average audience over the course of a programme, and can be updated up to six weeks after their initial release (quoted ITV figures use ITVHDSD Total).

Major Tournament Viewers - Aug 16

Perhaps viewers were turned off by England’s opposition, awkward kick-off times or even by England’s poor result in their first game against Russia? We don’t think these are plausible explanations – first, our econometric model of all of England’s games since the year 2000 suggests the opposition’s ranking makes only a limited contribution to viewing figures. Second, all but the Wales game were in a prime viewing slot, and even the figure for Wales was below all of the awkwardly-timed 2002 South Korea and Japan games (see chart above). Third, the audience for the first game against Russia game was also poor – at just 9.74m. ITV chose this game precisely because weekend evening games attract the most viewers. Based on similar games, our modelling suggested 15m was a realistic expectation for the Russia game. Finally, all of the games mattered – in previous tournaments, audiences have dropped when England were effectively out (spot the 2014 Costa Rica game in the above chart), or safely through, but that wasn’t the case in any of the three group games.

There are some other potential explanations – perhaps the number of viewers in public places was higher than previously, or BARB’s methodology missed some internet viewing, or maybe the Brexit vote diverted viewers’ attention. It could be that fewer players in the starting eleven were from well-supported English clubs.  These might be part of the explanation, and further analysis might shed some light on these issues, but they are unlikely to explain all of the difference. It would be interesting to explore viewer age break-downs, and whether club now comes before country.

It’s also worth keeping all this in context – more UK households watch England games than any other football event – the Premier League draws up 2m on Sky and the FA Cup final attracted 6.7m (inc BBC 1 and BT Sport). We also think the UEFA Nations League will offer a big improvement on the pointless friendly games it replaces from September 2018 (although it looks like the will only be broadcast on Sky). Still, overall, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that watching England games is just not as appealing to viewers as it was.



Friday night Premier League football – how many tuned in?

Friday 14th August saw an unusual event – a televised Premier League football game.  We look at how many people tuned in, and whether Friday night could become the new Sunday afternoon.

The FA and Premier League have been at pains to point out this was due to “unique circumstances” but, from 16/17, Friday night games are part of the TV package so this serves as an interesting experiment.

The headline figure from the Broadcast Audience Research Service released figures this week suggested 861k viewers tuned in to Sky Sports 1 for the Friday evening game of Aston Villa vs Manchester United. This was higher than both the 612k who watched Manchester United defeat Tottenham in the season opener on BT Sport the previous Saturday, and the 663k who watched West Brom vs Man City on Sky Sports on the previous Monday. However, Sunday afternoon games tend to attract over a million viewers (see below) and that was the case here as 1.3m saw West Ham upset at Arsenal.  Of course, the opening weekend figures may have been buoyed by the two-month summer break and these figures don’t account for those watching in a pub. Still, the margin here is big enough to suggest Friday night is less attractive to home viewers than Sunday afternoon.

Arguably the most interesting comparison is with the Saturday night football the Friday game replaced.  Again using the opening weekend as a reference (Sat 8th August) 857k watched Chelsea vs Swansea on Saturday night – so, arguably a similar game and very similar to Friday’s 861k.  Looking back to spring, other similar Saturday night games also attracted under a million – for example 828k for United vs West Bromich Albion; 973k for Crystal Palace vs United.

So, the Friday night figure appears in line with similar Saturday games. If the ‘novelty factor’ of a Friday game boosted the figures this could point to Friday being less attractive than Saturday – though the opposite could be true if watching on Friday becomes a ‘habit’. A Friday game could also shift some demand away from the other weekend viewing slots.

The first weekend’s figures may disappoint BT Sport. For the big kick-off last year,  they achieved 818k viewers for Man United vs Swansea – so this year’s figure of 612k is down by more than 25%. Still, both figures were well-up on the 451k who watched the opening encounter in BT’s first season in 2013 (Liverpool vs Stoke). It’s probably too early to say how BT’s prices changes and the addition of Champions and Europa League will affect viewing overall.

Looking more broadly at viewing figures, last year Sky Sports achieved up to 2.1m for a key game in winter and several intra-top-four games attracted over 1.5m. Outside of the top 6, a good example might be 1.1m for Sunderland vs Newcastle in early April. England internationals attract much bigger audiences – it’s unusual they attract under 4m viewers, and in the knock-out stages of major tournaments, viewers can exceed 20m.

In terms of key points then, Friday night’s game appears similar to Saturday night in terms of attractiveness to viewers and BT Sport got 25% fewer viewers for the opening game than last year. This is a relatively simple analysis – we plan to undertake more detailed analysis and modelling of what drives Premier League and England TV audiences in the coming weeks. Get in touch if you’d like to sponsor or report on that work .