Virgin Media customers tune in to more TV and shift viewing habits during lockdown

3 July 2020

  • Virgin Media customers spent 41 minutes longer per day watching TV in the early stages of lockdown - a 10% increase in total TV viewership
  • On demand programming and streaming apps consumption increased by nearly a third
  • News channels saw the largest increase in viewership during early lockdown with customers watching twice as much news
  • Scotland experienced the largest increase in daily viewing of linear channels during lockdown

Virgin Media has revealed how Covid-19 has shifted the nation’s TV viewing habits in new data published today.

In the early stages of lockdown, Virgin Media saw a 10% increase in customers watching TV compared to pre-lockdown, with every customer watching an extra 41 minutes per day on average.

Saturday 28 March was the busiest day for customers tuning in to TV channels and apps with 17% and 42% growth respectively compared to the eight previous Saturdays. ‘The Big Night In’ from the BBC was the most viewed event over the lockdown months.

News, music and radio channels saw huge growth in demand as customers tuned in to stay informed and entertained. Appetite for video on demand programmes and streaming apps has also grown significantly, with customers spending 29% longer watching programmes at a time that suits them using Virgin TV.

This new insight comes after Virgin Media revealed the impact of Covid-19 on customers’ broadband use which saw a third more data being downloaded during lockdown.

Popular TV channels, content and shows

Driven by the fast evolving situation and daily media briefings, news channels saw the largest boost in popularity during lockdown.

Virgin Media customers spent 17 million more hours per week – 25 minutes on average per customer each day - watching the news in early lockdown compared to pre-lockdown.

With millions more people working from home, music and radio channels experienced a 50% increase in demand as customers tuned in to their favourite hits to stay entertained.

And with pubs, bars and karaoke booths closed, Virgin Media customers showcased their singing talents (much to the delight of neighbours across the country) by using the dedicated Karaoke app which experienced a 124% increase in usage time during early lockdown.

With the majority of schools closed throughout the country, viewers spent 5 hours more on average during April watching Pay TV kids channels such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network compared to February. 

Overall, Pay kids TV channels saw a 19% increase in viewing time during early lockdown with Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig and Fireman Sam proving popular with younger viewers.

When it comes to the most popular general entertainment programmes throughout April and May, Britain’s Got Talent; Coronation Street; Gordon, Gino and Fred: American Road Trip and Antiques Roadshow topped the charts.

Streaming apps

The popularity of streaming apps showed no let up during lockdown.

Customers turned to on demand TV and streaming apps in their droves, spending 29% more time watching video apps in early lockdown than the pre-lockdown period, with Netflix experiencing a 32% surge in app usage time via the Virgin TV platform during early lockdown.

The YouTube app was also accessed by 16% more users and overall viewing time increased by 37%.

The return of live football

Since the return of the Bundlesliga last month, and the Premier League along with other top leagues across Europe more recently, football fans are now back watching the action with a 64% increase in weekly viewership compared to recent weeks.

When the Bundlesliga returned in May, Dortmund’s fixture against Bayern Munich on Tuesday 26 May was watched by 111% more customers than their previous league fixture on Saturday 11 November.

Manchester City vs Arsenal, which was the second live match of the Premier League’s return on 17 June, saw a 47% increase in viewership compared to the respective matches televised in March 2019 and 2018.

In the first week that the Premier League resumed, the sports genre experienced its highest viewership figures in 14 weeks.

Which areas in the UK have watched the most linear TV?

All regions across the UK consumed more linear TV during lockdown with an average increase of 39 minutes per viewer day compared to pre-lockdown.

Scotland increased their daily viewing of linear channels the most of any region in the UK with 46 minutes longer per day. This was followed by Northern Ireland with 44 minutes per day and London and the North East shared second spot with 42 minutes additional viewing time per day respectively.

Virgin Media customers tune in to bonus lockdown content

To help keep its customers entertained and informed during lockdown, Virgin Media made a number of premium entertainment, documentary, kids and Sky channels available at no extra cost.

More than one million customers who wouldn’t normally be able to access these channels tuned in to make the most of this great opportunity during early lockdown. 

Virgin TV Go

With families spending more time together indoors fighting over the TV remote, multiscreen viewing has proved hugely popular with a third more customers turning to the Virgin TV Go on demand service in early lockdown.

The growth in demand for multiscreen viewing has continued throughout lockdown and now live sport has returned to our screens, Virgin TV Go use of live TV has increased 12% increase in May when compared to April.

David Bouchier, Chief Digital Entertainment Officer at Virgin Media, said:

“Lockdown has certainly seen a leap in TV viewing across the nation. Whether tuning in to the latest news or catching up on favourite movie or TV series, our customers have been glued to their television sets throughout lockdown to stay informed and entertained. Alongside our ultrafast connectivity, we’ve supported customers through these difficult months by making more than 50 channels available at no extra cost and launching new, fully-integrated apps so it’s even easier for customers to find, watch and enjoy terrific TV and movies whenever they want.”

Notes to editors

1. ‘Pre-lockdown’ is defined as weeks two to 12 (6 Jan to 22 March) whereas ‘early lockdown’ is weeks 13 to 18 (23 March to 3 of May). In some case we refer to April vs. Feb comparisons or May vs. April for TV Go;
2. Data source: Virgin Media internal data