Brits set record for watching TV

Average viewer tuned in for 28 hours, 15 minutes a week

London– Forget Facebook and try not to mention Twitter. The real winner of the online digital age in the U.K. is old-fashioned TV.

According to a new analysis of audience habits by the admittedly partial Thinkbox, which lobbies on behalf of commercial TV webs, viewing figures last year were the highest since records began.

Thinkbox claims that data from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), show that the average Brit watched 28 hours, 15 minutes of live, linear TV a week — that’s four hours, two minutes a day.

This translates to an increase of 2 hours, 4 minutes a week (18 minutes a day) vs. 2009, a record for couch potatoes, Thinkbox says.

Fueling this viewing boom was the take-up of new TV technologies, on-demand TV services (which lead people back to linear TV), and the poor economy and lousy weather, which both encourage folks to stay at home and channel surf.

However, Thinkbox predicts that live, linear TV viewing is now likely to have reached its peak.

The org said that commercial TV webs were responsible for 63% of all live, linear TV viewing.

However, while ITV1, the U.K.’s biggest terrestrial web, won big audiences in 2010 with fare like “The X Factor” and period drama “Downton Abbey,” BBC1 remains Blighty’s most popular channel.

But the good news for commercial webs that rely on advertising coin is that homes with digital video recorders are using them less the longer they have them.

Households with recorders spent 14% of their time watching shows they had recorded last year, compared with 16% in 2009.

Part of the reason for this switch to live viewing was users of social media like Facebook and Twitter encouraging one other to watch when a show is aired, a phenomenon described by Thinkbox as a “drive to live.”