Brits turn to TV as recession bites

Nation watches more than 26 hours per week

LONDON -- British viewers are staying in and watching more television as the recession hits home, according to figures published Wednesday.

Research from marketing body Thinkbox and ratings agency BARB said that record viewing figures for 2008 showed U.K. viewers watched more than 26 hours of TV per week -- an average of 48 minutes more per week than in 2007 -- and viewed a record average of 42 advertisements. Top performers were such glossy variety competitions as "Britain's Got Talent" and "The X Factor."

Thinkbox, which represents commercial operators including ITV, Channel 4 and Five, said that downloads also were popular, with 78% of online TV viewing -- on the BBC's iPlayer, the ITV Player and Channel 4's 4oD -- coming as viewers caught up with programs from the main terrestrial networks.

"These figures show that people rely on channels and schedules to help them find the TV they want to watch," Thinkbox CEO Tess Alps said. "The broadcast audience may not always be watching the same program at the same time as it did when there were only a handful of channels ... but viewers haven't gone anywhere."