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The `typical viewer' no longer exists

THE DEMISE of "the typical viewer" was declared yesterday. After decades of broadcasters drawing up schedules to appeal to the typical viewer, they now accept that there is no such animal.

The end came with little fuss in a lengthy report for the BBC drawn up by the management consultants ECON, who examined the prospects for BBC digital services. In a survey of the viewing habits of more than 1,300 people it emerged that there were virtually no common strands that could define viewers as a group. Asked which genres of television they watched - such as sport, films, news, drama etc - the respondents registered 846 different combinations.

The most popular genres were films, watched by choice by 79 per cent of respondents, news by 70 per cent, light entertainment and comedy by 62 per cent and factual programmes by 61 per cent. Arts and music programmes are watched by only 34 per cent of viewers, according to the survey, children's programmes by 16.8 per cent and programmes for minority groups by 7 per cent.

On the diversity of viewing habits, the report said: "This clearly demonstrates that there is no such thing as a `typical' viewer ... Most viewers are interested in a range of programming, and this range differs widely between people."

The report adds that it would be wrong to suppose that there are "types" of viewers whose needs can be met by targeted programming.