31m UK viewers prepare for a catch-up Christmas

10 December 2015

UK leads the world for hi-tech TV viewing
Online viewing higher in the UK than elsewhere
UK viewers most likely to use tablets to watch catch-up TV

UK viewers won't be tied to the TV schedule this Christmas holiday, according to Ofcom research, which shows we're now using our TV gadgets more than any other major country.

Ofcom research suggests that 70% (31m) of UK adults1 will watch TV using free-to-air catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub this December, putting us ahead of all other major European countries and the USA, Japan and Australia.

TV viewers in the UK appear to be the most technologically-advanced of European nations, as the growing trend for time-shifted viewing offers an end to the traditional battle for the remote control this Christmas.

Online adults in the UK are the most likely to watch catch-up TV on a tablet (16%)2 and use an online service to watch TV or films (81%).

How the UK leads the world for tech-savvy TV


Despite these trends, traditional live TV remains the most popular way of tuning in, particularly on New Year's Eve when more than nine in 10 viewers (11.4 million)3 watched live at midnight last year.

The findings are part of Ofcom's International Communications Market Report 2015, published today.

Overall, people in the UK are watching 3 hours 40 minutes of TV per day, just below the average among sampled countries of 3 hours 43 minutes. Americans watch the most TV overall (4 hours 42 minutes), while the Swedish watch the least (2 hours 33 minutes).

The UK saw the greatest decline in traditional live TV viewing among comparator countries, decreasing by 4.9% from 2013 to 2014.


Connected TVs providing more viewing options

The UK is also a leader for viewing on connected TVs, with 42% of homes owning a TV connected4 to the internet - higher than any country sampled except Spain.

As a result, families gathering round for a film this Christmas are increasingly likely to turn to catch-up services like All 4 or Sky-on-Demand.

Seven in ten of the UK's connected TV owners5 are watching such content, while more than half (54%) are watching content via a subscription service such as Netflix or Amazon Video Prime.6

DVD decline

These shifts are leading to the rapid decline of the DVD player. In every sampled country, a large proportion of people reported watching DVDs or Blu-Ray discs less this year (32% in the UK), while only a small proportion (8% in the UK) say they are doing so more.

These changes in viewing habits are also driven by an increase in the take-up of portable connected devices. More than half (54%) of UK adults now own a tablet, and two-thirds (67%) own a smartphone.

On-demand spending soars

Given UK's viewers' appetite for online content, revenue for this sector is rising rapidly. Consumers and advertisers in this country spent £908m on these services last year, up  44% from £631m in 2013, and from just £102m in 2009.

These figures remain small when compared to the overall £14bn generated by the TV industry in 2014, of which 45% was generated by pay-TV subscriptions.

Around six in ten UK households (59%) had a pay TV service7 by the end of 2014. Despite this, more than half (51%) of viewing is still to the five major, free-to-air, public-service channels.8

James Thickett, Ofcom Director of Research, said: "UK viewers won't be tied to the TV schedule this Christmas.

"More than anywhere else, we're watching TV and films at a time that suits us, on a range of devices, in and out of the home. So this year, more people can fit their festive TV viewing around opening presents and carving the turkey."

Ofcom's International Communications Market Report is published annually to compare the availability, take-up and use of communications in the UK against 17 comparator countries. As well as TV and audio-visual services, the report also covers radio, telecoms, post, the internet and online content.



1. Based on ONS data for adults in the UK who use the internet, the same base as the ICMR research.

2. Accurate data from Ofcom International Communications Market Report 2015. Some data from other research may differ.

3. Ofcom Communications Market Report August 2015, page 161

4. Connected TVs include smart TVs but also those with access to on-demand content through games consoles, set-top boxes or one of an increasing range of internet-enabled devices such as Amazon's Fire Stick or Google's Chromecast.

5. 70% of respondents who access the internet on their connected TV.

6. 54% of respondents who access the internet on their connected TV.

7. Pay TV services are those accessed through satellite, cable or IPTV platforms and exclude Over The Top  services such as Netflix and Amazon.

8. BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, including HD but not their +1 versions.

9. The comparator countries in the report are the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the US, Japan, Australia, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Brazil, Russia, India, China and Nigeria, with a  subset being used for our consumer research.

10. Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications, wireless communications and postal services.

For further information about Ofcom please visit: www.ofcom.org.uk. Ofcom's news releases can be found at media.ofcom.org.uk