Ian DowdsIan Dowds CEO, UKOM

Unexpected audiences drove major growth in consumption of news and live coverage of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on PC, tablet and smartphones.

Of course, there has been significant commentary on the official TV audiences for the funeral of Queen Elizbeth II. Was it, or was it not, the biggest UK TV audience in living memory? According to BARB official viewing figures, at one stage c.95% of the available TV audience was following the live coverage, but did the event itself lose out in terms of absolute viewing numbers to the European 2020 Championships final between England and Italy in July 2021? There will be more numbers to crunch for sure.

According to UKOM’s analysis of the Ipsos iris data the Queen’s funeral drove major behaviour change on the day with regards to the size and make up of audiences accessing the BBC iPlayer app on tablets and smartphones.

Around 2.1m (4.2% of online adults) visited the BBC iPlayer app on Monday 19th September, a similar number to that on the day the Queen’s death was officially announced, eleven days before.  This audience was 62% higher than the previous day, when approximately 1.3m viewed the app, and 43% higher than the same day the week before.

Although the iPlayer app audience was similar on both historic days, Ipsos iris data shows that 45% more time was spent on the iPlayer app on the day of the funeral than on the day of her death. (approx. 115 million compared to 79 million total minutes). 

Interestingly, on the day of the funeral, compared to the previous day, smartphone iPlayer audience growth was much higher (+79%) than tablet (+45%), as was the total female audience (+75%).

While both were smaller on the day of the funeral than the iPlayer, the mobile app audiences of ITV Hub (251k) and SkyGo (426k) were both up week on week, although visitors to both may ultimately have been drawn elsewhere as total minutes for each were down more than 35% on the same day one week earlier.

The biggest surprise to some may be that the highest time spent growth day-on-day of the demographic audiences of the iPlayer app on the day of the funeral was for those aged 25-34, who nearly tripled time using the app (+262%), just above 45-54s (+259%) and some way above growth for 35-44s (+170%). 

An unexpected surge of interest of younger people in the Queen’s passing was signaled eleven days earlier on Thursday 8th September when the news broke, with a week-on-week growth of 44% for 15-24s accessing the BBC News app but their time in the app growing more than four-fold, by a staggering 305%.

On the same day the Sky News app saw its 15-24 audience grow 277% on the previous week.

It was not just the broadcaster apps audiences that saw visitor numbers swell on September 8th as nearly all the British newspapers also experienced double digit audience growth w-o-w:

Audience figures

In addition to mobile apps, the websites of the BBC and the biggest newsbrands also experienced huge audience increases on the day the Queen died.  

One quarter of the UK online population, 12.7 m adults, visited the BBC.co.uk website - an increase of 57% w-o-w and page views more than doubled (+131%).

Newspaper websites whose audience grew included theguardian.com (+83%), mirror.co.uk (+82%) and dailymail.co.uk (+54%).  The Guardian website was particularly popular – page views increased from around 8.7m to 17.9m w-o-w – an increase of 105%.

It is hard to imagine that there will be a news event to rival the sudden end of the era that was the 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth. The UK online population feasted on a diet of streamed broadcast news as it developed, or the near-faultless streamed coverage of funeral itself. Whether visiting the newsbrands websites and apps for background features or for breaking news and live stream updates, the appetite of all UK audiences, and that of the younger audiences in particular, would appear to have been satisfied over the period of national mourning. That was no mean feat.

Source of data: UKOM Ipsos iris Online Audience Measurement Service, Sept 2022, top-line daily data, UK. Base: All aged 15+ years using PC/laptop, smartphone or tablet device(s) in that month.

Ian Dowds is CEO of UKOM

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