Less people are watching television in the UK than they were a year ago, a figure that coincides with an overall fall in the number of UK households that own a television set for the first time ever. And yet ad spend forecasts for 2015 show that both the value of an individual ad and total spending are set to increase. 

That appears counter-intuitive: If ads are reaching less people then why should the value of those ads increase? Total average daily TV viewing in the UK last year was just under 3 and three quarter hours a day per person. That translates to an overall decline in total TV viewing of 4.5 percent compared to last year, and two fewer ads viewed per day.

Meanwhile, viewing on tablets and laptops grew year on year by 17 percent, although that only dragged the overall television viewership content up .2 percent – without that boost the overall drop in TV viewership would have been 4.7 percent.

And yet ad spend on linear television grew 6 percent year on year between 2013 and 2014, as demonstrated by this rough-and ready chart:


So why is that ad spend increasing? After all, falling audience numbers combined with difficulty quantifying the effectiveness of ads are also the issues facing print, which is the only medium with a forecasted decreased ad spend in 2015. 

The answer could potentially lie in a analysis by Thinkbox, who note that the drop is largely because the heaviest TV watchers are in fact watching less linear television, while the overall proportion of the population who watch television has remained the same. 94.6 percent of the UK population watched television at least once per week in 2013 while the following year saw the figure fall only slightly to 94.2 percent:

“It isn’t that people have stopped watching linear TV; it is that those who were watching the most watched a bit less.”

Additionally, television ads are frequently cited as having the greatest ROI of ads on any medium, and the average number of ads watched is still significantly higher than it was even 10 years ago. So with the fall in the amount of television that the heaviest watchers are viewing, advertisers are arguably actually getting better value for money on the ads than they were in 2013.