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Thursday, March 31, 2005

Television viewing

Fall 2003

Canadians are increasingly choosing homegrown news and public affairs shows over other programming on Canadian television, according to latest data on television viewing. In addition, they are spending less time watching sports programs.

The data, which cover both specialty and pay-TV and conventional television, show that news and public affairs programs are becoming more and more popular in both sectors.

Viewers reported that they spent about 38% of their time watching news and public affairs on conventional television, up from 33% in 1998. Similarly, they spent 15% of their time watching similar programs on pay and specialty TV, up from 11% six years earlier.

The proportion of time allocated for watching sports programs fell in both cases. Viewers reported they spent only 6% of their time watching sports on conventional television in 2003, down from 8% six years earlier. Sports took about 14% of viewing time on pay and specialty television, down from 19%.

In both cases, drama programs took up most of viewers' time.

Canadian content holds steady

Canadian content on television held relatively steady in 2003 at around 44% for pay and specialty television, and just under 57% for conventional television.

Compared with levels in 1998, Canadian content on pay and specialty television was up from 40%, while on conventional television it had declined slightly from just over 57%.

The share of Canadian drama, and Canadian news and public affairs in particular has shown big increases on Canadian specialty and pay-TV since 1998.

Canadian drama reached an 8.5% share on those channels in 2003, up from 6.4% in 1998. Canadian news and public affairs programs shot up to a 12.7% share from 8.1% six years earlier.

In 2003, Canadian documentaries accounted for 2.6% of all programs shown on pay-TV and specialty stations, up from 2.2% in 1998. Academic and recreational instructions grew to 4.0% from 2.6% in 1998.

Note to readers

The Culture Statistics Program's Television project is a joint undertaking of the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), The Department of Canadian Heritage and Statistics Canada.

Statistics Canada's databank on television viewing consists of files from a number of sources. Basic viewing data are acquired from Bureau of Measurement (BBM). They include the demographics of survey respondents and the schedules of most television stations whose signal is picked up in Canada.

The CRTC codes the characteristics of each program: content (news, public affaires, drama, religious programming, etc.), country of origin, and percentage of Canadian content. The final databank, which is retained by Statistics Canada, also indicates the network affiliation and geographic location of each television station.

Basic survey data have been collected by BBM from a sample of Canadians ages two and over. Data were collected using a diary type questionnaire over four weeks during October and November 2003.

Another organization, Nielson Media Research, also produces data on television viewing. This firm uses electronic meters to collect data on a year-round basis. The results of this alternate methodology may produce averages that vary from the basic results produced by BBM.

On the other hand, the share of Canadian sports, music and dance programs continued to slide. On pay and specialty TV, viewers spent just 9.6% of their time watching Canadian sports programs in 2003, down from 12.0% in 1998.

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While equivalent figures for Canadian conventional television showed a similar trend for documentaries, the viewing share of Canadian-content dramas declined in 2003.

Foreign dramas lose popularity

Drama and comedy continued to be the mainstay of foreign programs, but their popularity among Canadian viewers moved in opposite directions.

While the viewing time for foreign comedy improved over the past six years on Canadian pay and specialty television, viewing of foreign drama programs declined on all types of stations.

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The overall viewing time for foreign drama dropped to 20.1% in 2003 from 22.9% in 1998. After reaching a high of 23.0% in 1999, the trend has been slipping ever since.

Anglophones' viewing time of foreign drama fell from 25.7% in 1998 to 22.6% in 2003. Francophones, with much less viewing time for foreign drama overall, remained stable at around 15.0% for most of the period, dropping to 14.3% in 2003.

Anglophones spent more than twice as much time as francophones watching foreign comedy. For example, Anglophones devoted 11.4% of their viewing time to foreign comedy in 2003 compared to 5.1% for Francophones.

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Francophones prefer Canadian programming. They spent seven times as much time as Anglophones watching Canadian comedy in 2003, and three times as much time watching Canadian drama. The gap for domestic drama was even wider in 1998.

Young people watching less television

The average hours per week of television viewing in Canada has not changed in the last five years, hovering around 22 hours per week.

This is because young adults, teens and children are spending increasingly less time in front of the television, offsetting the increasing hours their grandparents are putting in watching TV.

From a level of 14.3 hours per week in 1998, young men aged 18 to 24 have consistently reduced their hours of TV viewing to 11.1 hours in 2003. Young women in the same age group went from 17.6 hours in 1998 to 15.5 hours in 2003. The pattern was the same for teens and children.

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The young are spending more of their leisure time doing things other than watching television. For example, Internet use among households with children under 18 continued to grow, from 41% in 1999 to 73% in 2003.

TV viewing highest in Quebec and Nova Scotia, lowest in Alberta

Quebec and Nova Scotia led the nation in the number of hours of television viewing. The highest viewing time of 24.0 hours per week was recorded by Francophones in Quebec, although this was down from 26.2 hours in 1998.

The figure for Anglophones in Quebec, which mirrors the trend in Saskatchewan, was 21.3 hours in 2003.

Alberta had the lowest viewing time of 19.7 hours per week, unchanged from the 1998 viewing level.

Available on CANSIM: tables 502-0001 to 502-0005.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3114.

Selected details from the Fall 2003 Television Viewing Survey in table format (87F0006XIE, free) are now available online. Data from the survey are also available by province. Researchers can request special tabulations on a cost-recovery basis.

For general information contact Client Services (1-800-307-3382; To order special tables or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Fidel Ifedi (613-951-1569; fax: 613-951-1333 or Lofti Chahdi (613-951-3136; fax: 613-951-1333 Culture, Tourism and the Centre for Education Statistics.

Distribution of viewing time, by origin and type of program: Canadian conventional TV
  1998 2002 2003
Type of program Canadian programs Foreign programs Total Canadian programs Foreign programs Total Canadian programs Foreign programs Total
  % share
News and public affaires 29.7 2.8 32.5 32.2 4.3 36.4 32.6 5.5 38.1
Documentary 0.7 0.4 1.1 1.5 0.3 1.8 1.8 0.3 2.1
Academic 1.4 0.1 1.5 1.8 0.2 2.0 1.3 0.2 1.5
Social/Recreational 0.5 0.6 1.1 0.6 0.5 1.1 0.6 0.2 0.9
Religion 0.2 0.0 0.3 0.2 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.2
Sports 7.3 0.6 7.9 4.8 0.6 5.4 5.1 1.0 6.1
Variety and games 8.4 6.2 14.6 5.6 8.5 14.1 7.5 8.0 15.5
Music and dance 0.2 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.2 0.9 0.2 1.1
Comedy 1.4 9.5 10.9 2.3 7.7 10.0 1.5 7.2 8.7
Drama 7.6 22.3 29.8 6.9 21.7 28.6 5.0 20.8 25.7
Other/Unknown: 0.0 0.2 0.2 0.0 0.1 0.1 0.0 0.1 0.1
Total  57.3  42.7  100.0  56.1  43.9  100.0 56.5  43.5  100.0
Note:Figures may not add to totals due to rounding.

Distribution of viewing time, by origin and type of program: Canadian pay and specialty TV
  1998 2002 2003
Type of program Canadian programs Foreign programs Total Canadian programs Foreign programs Total Canadian programs Foreign programs Total
  % share
News and public affaires 8.1 3.1 11.1 10.5 1.8 12.3 12.7 1.9 14.6
Documentary 2.2 3.0 5.2 2.7 3.3 6.0 2.6 2.6 5.2
Academic 2.2 1.2 3.3 2.9 2.5 5.3 3.4 2.7 6.2
Social/Recreational 0.4 1.0 1.3 0.4 1.2 1.6 0.6 2.0 2.6
Religion 0.3 0.3 0.7 0.5 0.5 1.0 0.3 0.2 0.5
Sports 12.0 6.6 18.7 12.4 4.3 16.8 9.6 4.9 14.4
Variety and games 1.9 2.7 4.6 2.6 3.9 6.5 2.7 5.1 7.8
Music and dance 4.5 1.0 5.5 2.5 0.7 3.3 1.7 0.7 2.4
Comedy 1.8 10.4 12.2 1.4 11.7 13.0 1.9 12.8 14.7
Drama 6.4 22.7 29.1 7.7 23.9 31.6 8.5 20.8 29.3
Other/Unknown: 0.0 8.3 8.3 0.0 2.6 2.6 0.0 2.6 2.6
Total 39.9  60.1  100.0  43.6  56.4  100.0 43.9 56.1 100.0
Note:Figures may not add to totals due to rounding.

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Date Modified: 2005-03-31 Important Notices