UKTV has once again enjoyed a record breaking year.
The commercial network, which is a joint venture between BBC Worldwide and Scripps Networks Interactive, has recorded a significant increase in viewership in 2014 – making it the fourth year in a row that UKTV has registered substantial ratings growth.
All told, UKTV saw its average audience share across its 10 channels (Alibi/Dave/Drama/Eden/Gold/Good Food/Home/Really/Watch/Yesterday) grow to 5.07%, up by 8.5% on the 4.67% audience share that the network registered in 2013. Meanwhile, on the back of that ratings growth, UKTV also saw their SOCI (share of commercial impacts) surge to 9%, up fairly considerably on 2013’s record of 8.2%.
“UKTV is bucking the market, growing its share of the UK commercial TV market to 9%, making our portfolio of channels vital for advertisers”, said UKTV CEO Darren Childs. “This is the first time in the history of British television that a non-PSB channels business has played so big a role in the ratings charts and our investment will continue in 2015.”
The ratings growth comes after what was UKTV’s best ever performance over the festive period in their more than twenty year history, with their channels registering an average growth of 3%. Key days across the festive period were Boxing Day, when UKTV posted a share of 6.51%, up 4% from last year; and New Years Day, when the network reached an audience share of 6.7%, up 8% on 2013.
The festive period was especially good to flagship comedy channel Gold and online brand UKTV Play. Gold was the most watched pay only channel across all platforms on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (excluding movie channels), while UKTV Play registered an increase of 42% in views and 169% in downloads across the festive period, compared to the previous two weeks.
The strong performance over Christmas marks at least the second time in 2014 that UKTV saw a significant growth in viewership. As previously reported, April 2014 was also a strong month for the broadcaster with a 5.37% audience share and a 9.37% share of commercial impacts, which was hailed at the time as the company’s “greatest ever monthly year-on-year SOCI growth”.
The boost in viewership and in turn SOCI comes on the back of what has been a fairly aggressive push into original content for UKTV. The broadcaster invested a whopping £125 million in on-screen content in 2014 (up by £15 million on the content spend in 2013), with a number of those original commissions pulling in very strong ratings.
Of particular note here is Dave’s Storage Hunters UK, which launched to 1.3 million viewers; Gold’s live broadcast of the Monty Python: One Down Five to Go stage show, which pulled in close to one million viewers; and the final season of Watch’s Dynamo: Magician Impossible, which drew more than half a million viewers.
In addition to commissioning original series, UKTV also used a portion of the £125 million content budget to secure numerous first run US series, as well as the new seasons of series they had acquired in previous years. They were very active in this area, picking up five new American dramas and jumping to prime position as the most active buyer of new US content out of the LA Screenings.
Those acquired dramas also proved to be big performers for UKTV and their key channels Alibi and Watch. Alibi imports Rizzoli & Isles and Castle continued to pull in close to 500K viewers; while Watch’s imports Grimm, Believe, Resurrection and The Strain all peaked with over half a million viewers.
On a channel-by-channel basis, Dave grew its audience share by 1% compared to last year, and thus retained its title as the UK’s number one non-PSB channel; Really, aided by the strong performance of numerous paranormal shows, grew by 20% in 2014; Alibi registered an audience share of 0.43%, up by 6% from 2013; and Drama achieved an audience share of 0.78% in its first full year on air, though UKTV noted that the channel did break through the 1% share mark on 23 days across 2014.