UK becomes a nation of streamers

07 August 2019

Around half of UK homes now subscribe to TV streaming services, according to Ofcom’s Media Nations report that reveals major shifts in the nation’s viewing habits.

The number of UK households signed up to the most popular streaming platforms – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV and Disney Lifeincreased from 11.2m (39% of households) in 2018 to 13.3m (47%) in 2019.

With many homes using more than one service, the total number of UK streaming subscriptions increased from 15.6m to 19.1m in 2018.

And while traditional TV viewing continued to fall in 2018, the UK’s public service broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C – showed more than 100 times more original, homegrown shows than the overseas streaming platforms.

Traditional channels still account for 70% of TV time

Traditional TV viewing is falling at a slightly faster rate, driven by the changing habits and preferences of viewers.

While traditional viewing still accounts for most TV time (69% – or an average of 3 hours 12 minutes a day), this fell by nine minutes in 2017, and by 11 minutes last year.

Viewers now watch 50 minutes less traditional TV each day than they did in 2010. The biggest shift is among younger people (16-24s), whose viewing of traditional TV has halved since 2010.

The equivalent of 34 extra series of the BBC’s Bodyguard would need to have been broadcast and watched in 2018 to cancel out the decline in traditional TV viewing.

Young people now spend an hour on YouTube each day

In contrast, daily viewing of streaming services increased by seven minutes last year, to 26 minutes, while viewing of YouTube increased by six minutes, to 34 minutes. For the first time, young people now spend more than an hour on YouTube every day (64 minutes, up from 59 minutes).

Two in five UK adults now consider online video services to be their main way of watching TV and film. Such is the attraction to online viewing, a similar proportion of people who use subscription streaming services could foresee themselves not watching traditional broadcast television at all in five years’ time.

Best of British

Despite the fall in traditional broadcast TV viewing, the five main public service broadcasters’ (PSB) channels held their share of viewing – at 52% in 2018 compared to 51% in 2017. At the same time, three-quarters of viewers of the PSBs’ channels say they are PSB channels held their own in 2018, with more than 32,000 hours of original content compared to 221 hours on streaming services.either very or fairly satisfied.

The PSBs delivered more than 32,000 hours of original, homegrown productions across their channels in 2018.

That is around 125 times more than was shown on paid streaming services (221 hours). The vast majority of programmes available on streaming platforms are US-made productions, created to be shown in lots of different countries.

Yih-Choung Teh, Strategy and Research Group Director at Ofcom, said: “The way we watch TV is changing faster than ever before. In the space of seven years, streaming services have grown from nothing to reach nearly half of British homes.

“But traditional broadcasters still have a vital role to play, producing the kind of brilliant UK programmes that overseas tech giants struggle to match. We want to sustain that content for future generations, so we’re leading a nationwide debate on the future of public service broadcasting.”