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NI Viewing Levels Up 5% in Ofcom Report
24 Aug 2010 :
UTV News most watched News programme in NI
On 20 August, Ofcom published its seventh annual Communications Market report. In relation to Northern Ireland, the report says whilst average viewing levels have increased there by 5% since last year, NI audiences still watch less TV than the UK average. The report further found that UK channels contributed towards the first ever annual fall in the number of UK television channels.

During 2009, people in Northern Ireland watched an average of 3.5 hours per day, compared to the UK average of 3.8 hours. Average viewing levels in the North, however, increased by 5%, compared to an average UK increase of 1%. Across Northern Ireland as a whole, satellite was found to be the most popular TV platform, with 43% of homes having satellite as their main way of watching television. Freeview is the next most popular TV platform at 28%, with cable at 12%.

The objective of Ofcomís report is to act as a reference source covering the UK communications sectors, aimed at industry, policy makers, analysts and consumers. The report further found that early evening TV news continues to be very popular with viewers in Northern Ireland, with UTVís programme attracting the highest audience share (34 per cent) of any nationís and regionís bulletins. More people in Northern Ireland regard radio as their main source of news than anywhere else in the UK and, at 20%, it is almost twice the UK average of 11 per cent.

Moving onwards, the amount of money spent by the BBC and UTV on television programming specifically for Northern Ireland and the number of hours they produced for viewers there both fell in the last year. BBC NI and UTVís combined spend on TV programmes in 2009 was £25m, down 11 per cent from £28m in 2008 and down 41% over the last five years. The combined number of TV hours produced for Northern Ireland viewers fell to 969 hours in 2009, down 15% from 2008. Production of programmes in Northern Ireland for the main networks remained low during 2009. At 0.4% of its total output by volume, the BBC was the only public service broadcaster which produced any programmes in Northern Ireland for viewing by audiences across the whole of the UK.

General findings for all the regions researched included the fact that, as a result of the digital switch-over, digital television was the most widely-adopted digital communications technology in 2009 with take-up ranging from 97% of TV homes in Wales to 87% in Northern Ireland. The report also found that more than 99% of TVs sold last year had DTT built in. On average, nearly half of peopleís waking hours were found to be spent on using media content and communications services Ė on average 45% of the total. People spend on average seven hours a day consuming different media, but they squeeze in 8 hours and 40 minutes worth using more than one medium at a time.

The availability of most key communication services remained largely unchanged, the largest rise in availability coming from the digital terrestrial television signal (DTT) which rose to 81% as the UKís switchover to digital gathered pace. Nearly a quarter (24%) of homes in the UK and Northern Ireland no longer receive an analogue signal and over the next 12 months a further 4.5 million homes will complete the switch, bringing the programme to 40% completion. Ofcom research shows that Digital TV take-up is high, at 99% or above, in many parts of Wales and in the North West of England, where switch-over has already occurred. It is lowest in London and Northern Ireland, at 87%, which will be among the last regions to switch in 2012.

Around 5.1 million homes across the UK had access to high-definition TV channels by the end of Q2 2010, up from 1.9 million in Q1 2009. HDTV is now showing mass-market appeal, as sales of HD-ready TV sets exceeded 24 million. The independentsí share of available production spending grew from 40% in 2005 to 46% in 2009. As to 3D TV figures from GfK (Digital World Reporting Service) mentioned in the Ofcom report propose that 25,000 3DTV sets had been sold in Europe by May 2010. On 3 April, BSkyB launched Europeís first dedicated 3D channel with a live transmission of the Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea, shown in selected pubs and clubs around the UK. Sky 3D is to become available to residential customers on October 1st 2010, offering live sports content and movies.

The closure of Setanta Sports and its UK channels contributed towards the first ever annual fall in the number of UK television channels, down from 495 at the end of 2008 to 490 in 2009. Following years of consistent growth, the contraction in the number of channels could suggest that the multichannel market is reaching saturation point, the report states.

The report examined UK and Northern Irish consumersí use of media and communications through a survey of 1138 adults aged 16 years and over who kept a diary of their media usage. All figures in the report relate to the first quarter of 2010 and all figures were measured as a proportion of individuals except for DTV, which represents the proportion of TV homes with a digital television reception device on the main set.

Click here to read the full report.

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