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Joe Lewis 

I love it when a planner comes together

I love it when a planner comes together

Looking at playback data shows that we've been hoarding some TV programmes for up to eight years, discovers BARB's Joe Lewis. Does certain content never get old or are we just nostalgic? To answer that we have to revisit Christmas 1988...

In 1988 my mum introduced to me what would become a very close part of my life: a brand new Panasonic Video Cassette Recorder. Combined with a new 20 inch television set rented from Granada rentals, I was hooked. My video of choice was, of course, Transformers: The Movie.

I watched it so many times that large parts of the film became worn and the picture severely degraded. But I wasn't just hooked on Transformers, it was recording in general. Any available E180 tape that I could get my hands on ("Margaret & Ian's Wedding"...that doesn't look important) would get thrown in the VCR because The Princess Bride was on that afternoon and there was a serious clash with Hannibal Smith's The A-Team.

This love affair with recording and organising our own archive of programmes still exists, whether it be saving recordings on our PVRs or accessing our favourite shows via subscription VOD services. And Sky's new Sky Q platform takes this to another level by allowing us to access our recordings on additional devices.

Understanding the longevity of archive content is therefore proving increasingly important to broadcasters, especially in an ever more competitive content sales and broadcasting market. For studios, what is the true value of the rights to their content? For platforms who need to attract subscribers, which programmes still appeal to viewers potentially years after their premiere broadcast?

With this in mind, how can viewing data help broadcasters and commissioners alike in understanding the value of content and what viewers continue to like to watch? Although BARB has reported viewing up to 28 days after broadcast since 2013, it has also reported Sky+ viewing greater than 28 days since broadcast in its data files since 2006.

By looking at this viewing, we can start to get a picture of what kind of programmes people keep on their hard-drives to watch again and again and in turn, what the true longevity of programming is.

Across 2015, there were over 25 billion minutes of viewing to programmes after 28 days since broadcast via Sky+. This is an additional 0.5% of television viewing across the whole population, or 1.3% additional viewing in Sky households. That's a lot of programming that we're keeping on our PVRs for watching later.

So how long do we keep our content to watch again? Well, from the Sky+ data for the end of 2015, we're able to estimate that this is how much 29+ day catch-up viewing was being watched and when it was originally recorded:

chart 1

Source: BARB/TRP Research - 29+ Day Playback via Sky+, 2015

We can see that the majority of the 29+ day Sky playback was to recent recordings in the last 12 months, but a tail still exists, with more than half a million minutes of viewing to programming recorded as far back as 2007.

chart 2

Source: BARB/TRP Research - Channels include HD/+1 variants

So, which channels are the most popular for recording programming for longevity? There are few surprises at the top with the major terrestrials dominating viewing from our PVR registry. Sky Atlantic and Sky 1 coming in at 4th and 7th on the list is partly due to Sky households being the base sample for this analysis, but it is also a reflection of the type of programming available on their channels. An attractive scheduling line-up, often including late night premiere repeats, can make recording your favourite programme more convenient.

Now that we're starting to get an idea of the channel brands that are driving the content to our hard-drives, what kind of programming is it?

chart 3

Source: BARB/TRP Research - 29+ Day Playback via Sky+, 2015

The largest is that of drama serials, which contributed to 34% of long term playback with viewers often recording full seasons of a particular drama to watch back at a later date at their convenience. Cinema films also feature strongly, an obvious choice for storing indefinitely on your hard-drive.

With all this in mind, what was the single most popular programme watched back in 2015 after 28 days?

chart 4

Source: BARB/TRP Research - 29+ Day Playback via Sky+, 2015

Children's programmes take the top two spots in the listings of highest audiences to single broadcast programmes, with In the Night Garden on Cbeebies accumulating an audience of over half a million across 2015 in long term playback on Sky+.

Likewise, Toy Story 3 on BBC One, shown on Christmas Eve in 2014, had a long term playback of over 300k. Thereafter, Game of Thrones dominates the list. So, you can see, even after 28 days since broadcast, many programmes can accumulate sizeable audiences over time from playback from our hard-drives on our PVRs.

Accumulating individual broadcasts by programme brand, we can also get an idea of the programmes contributing the most to our PVR registries:

chart 5

Source: BARB/TRP Research - 29+ Day Playback via Sky+, 2015

Here, Sky dominates the entire top ten of long term recorded shows, with one of my personal favourites, season 3 of Arrow, taking the top spot. Game of Thrones appears twice with different seasons, which combined would be far and away the largest programme title in Sky households' playback registry. The strength of Sky programming is clear here as these dramas are continuing to provide value to their subscribers many months after broadcast and certainly after the traditional consolidated audience figures we produce.

It is little wonder then that Game of Thrones featured heavily in Sky On Demand Box Set promotions. By using these data, it is possible to identify the type of programmes people want to keep, watch later, or indeed, watch again.

chart 6

Source: BARB/TRP Research - 29+ Day Playback via Sky+, 2015

This repeat value adds extra depth to our understanding of how we as viewers use the PVR and indeed how some programmes continue to provide entertainment many times over. With terabytes of memory, we're not just recording something to then delete after watching, we're storing and creating a whole inventory of programming to watch at our convenience, as many times as we like.

As with individual programmes, Children's TV takes the top spot for repeat value of programmes on the planner. Indeed 24% of Children's programmes watched back after 28 days were watched back more than once. A whole new breed of youngsters watching the untimely death of Optimus Prime over and over again...or maybe that's just me.

Joe Lewis is deputy research director at BARB.

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