Wall to wall coverage of the World Cup boosted the number of hours people spent watching television in the first six months of this year, according to research published today.

Figures for January to June show people watched an average of 28 hours and 15 minutes a week of broadcast television - two hours and two minutes more than in the same period in 2009.

Experts put the rise down to people tuning into the World Cup during June and a greater choice of channels as more people switch to digital television.

The figures, which come from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (Barb), are published by Thinkbox, a marketing body that works on behalf of commercial TV.

They also reveal the popularity of digital technology allowing viewers to easily record shows and watch them later.

Programmes that are recorded and watched after their initial broadcast account for 7.1% of all the television watched in the UK.

That figure rises to 13.7% in households with access to digital television recorders such as Sky+.

Four fifths (80.4%) of recorded programmes are watched within a week of their original broadcast.

Thinkbox’s chief executive Tess Alps said: “We know that technology is making TV ever more attractive and we should never underestimate the fundamental importance of compelling content.

“The World Cup was a major TV event in the first half of the year, on top of other successful new programmes, such as the election debates, Take Me Out, Mo, Going Postal, Flash Forward and Glee.

“It all points to the enormous appeal of linear TV in the UK as new ways to watch TV grow.”