BBC wins online ratings as TV viewing dips

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LONDON -- The BBC appears to be countering the Internet's effect of stealing TV audiences by proving more popular among Web surfers in the U.K. than any other on- line service except Yahoo!, the U.S. online directory service.

New research from Fletcher Research's U.K. Internet User Monitor, compiled from 12,000 Web users last December, found 42% had visited BBC Online in the previous two weeks. Only Yahoo! U.K. & Ireland scored higher with 61%. Third and fourth positions were taken by search engines Lycos U.K. with 30% and Excite U.K. (50%-owned by BT) with 28%.

Fletcher Research points to the BBC's crucial need to attract audience share online at a time when a third of the British population with Internet access is spending less time watching TV. Just 3% are watching more TV. The Internet's impact on print and radio consumption, however, has been "broadly neutral," the survey found.

"Only a week after we saw the BBC's share of television audiences fall below 30%, they show that their investment in new media is beginning to pay off," says William Reeve, research director at Fletcher Research. "As Internet users abandon their TV sets to spend more time online, many are maintaining a relationship with the BBC via their computer screens." The BBC is reported to have spent $32 million upgrading BBC Online in 1997.

The survey also revealed that 64% of active U.K. Web users are male, 77% of whom use a computer daily. Of the 10% of the adult population who are active Web users, 57% have a mobile phone, 77% fall into the upscale sociodemographic groupings ABC1 and 79% say they are in households with above-average income.

Copyright January 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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