Scotland’s changing TV landscape

03 August 2017

  • Seven in ten Scots watch multiple episodes back-to-back
  • New technology is changing when, where and how we watch TV
  • But live TV remains central to our TV-watching

Ofcom research reveals that TV watching in Scotland is changing, with seven in ten now watching multiple episodes of their favourite shows in a single sitting.

The finding is part of Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report, Scotland 2017, which this year reveals the changing landscape in Scottish television habits.

Nearly three quarters of adults in Scotland (74%) are using technology such as catch-up or subscription services to watch multiple episodes of a series at once, wiping out the wait for next week’s instalment.

Around four in ten (38%) do so every week, and more than half (57%) do it monthly. This ability to watch multiple episodes back-to-back is often referred to as ‘binge watching’.

4% of Scottish people watch multiple episodes of the same programme back-to-back in one sitting every day; 32% at least weekly; 57% at least monthly; 16% never

Most binge-watchers (70%) find this type of TV viewing relaxing and enjoyable, but a third (33%) of adults admit the temptation to watch another episode has cost them sleep and left them feeling tired.

Perhaps as a result, more than a third (40%) of adult binge viewers are trying to cut down their TV viewing in some way. This includes rationing their viewing (18%), finding an alternative hobby (8%), but nearly one in ten have cancelled their TV subscription (9%).

Binge viewing has such a strong allure that almost three quarters (72%) of monthly bingers said they sometimes hadn’t intended to do it, but the pull of the next episode kept them tuned in.

Spoiler alert!

Many people’s desire to keep up with programmes is driven by fear of someone spoiling a programme’s ending (20%), while others found it gave them something to talk about with friends (29%)

Although half (53%) of Scottish viewers like the freedom of being able to watch whenever, wherever they like, viewing at home is still popular. Just under a half of people (46%) watch TV in their bedroom, while others tune-in in the kitchen (16%), the garden (6%) or the bathroom (9%).

Many people watch TV outside of their home – while on holiday (23%), while commuting (18%) or in the pub (5%).

46% of adults in Scotland watch programmes/filmes on any device or service in the bedroom

For many, watching TV is a solo activity. Six in ten (59%) subscribers to on-demand and streaming services in Scotland said they use it for ‘alone time’.

Nearly half (47%) of people in Scotland said they watched content alone every day. Individual viewing sometimes happens in the same room as other household members, with each person watching content on different devices. A third (34%) said that this happens at least once a week.

Despite this, nearly seven in ten (67%) say that watching TV can bring the whole family together for a shared viewing experience. And more than two in ten (22%) adults in Scotland say they sit with family to watch the same TV programme or film on the same device every day, while more than six in ten (63%) do this at least once a week.

Live broadcast TV is still central to our TV watching. Half (51%) of people in Scotland said that if they wanted to watch TV, they would first “switch on the TV and see what’s airing on live broadcast TV”.

67% of adults in Scotland agree that watching TV programmes/films brings the family together

Last year, Andy Murray’s victory in the Wimbledon 2016 Men’s Singles Finalon BBC One was the most-watched programme at the time of broadcast among adults in Scotland.

Glenn Preston, Ofcom’s Scotland Director said: “Technology has revolutionised the way we watch TV. Gone are the days of waiting a week for the next episode. Now people find it hard to resist watching multiple episodes around the house or on the move.

“But it’s important to recognise that live television still has a special draw, and has the power to bring the whole family together in a common experience.”



Alan Stewart
Regulatory Affairs Manager, Ofcom Scotland
0131 220 7303,

Jonathan Ruff
Regulatory Affairs Manager, Ofcom Scotland
0131 220 7302,

The wider communications market in Scotland


  • Three of the top 20 programmes in Scotland in 2106 were shown only in Scotland. Still Game, BBC One’s comedy series filmed in Scotland, was the most popular TV programme in Scotland in 2016, drawing almost 1.8 million viewers. Second to this was Only An Excuse, eighth was Hogmanay Live and the England vs. Scotland World Cup qualifier was nineteenth.
  • BBC One and STV’s early evening local news bulletins attracted a greater share in Scotland than the UK average for the same weekday time slot. Reporting Scotland (BBC One) drew an average of 30.7% of all TV viewers in Scotland between 6.30pm and 7.00pm in 2016. STV News at Six attracted a lower share (25.6%) than Reporting Scotland, though it was still higher than the Channel 3 UK average share (19.6%) in the same time slot.
  • On average, people in Scotland spend an average of 3 hours 56 minutes per day watching television, slightly more than the UK average of 3 hours 32 minutes.
  • BBC, ITV Border Scotland and STV’s spending on first-run originated content for viewers in Scotland increased by £2m in real terms from 2015 to £57m in 2016. However, this was a fall of £1m in real terms compared to 2011.
  • Scotland’s first-run originated output fell by 21% from 2015 to 486 hours in 2016, the highest proportional decrease of all the UK nations. A large proportion of this fall was in the Channel 3 licence holders’ non-news/non-current affairs programmes.
  • BBC Alba spending increased by 19% overall in real terms, with £16.4m spent on total programme output in 2016. Since 2015, spending on non-news and non-current affairs programmes increased by 21% in real terms, while spending on current affairs almost doubled, rising by 91%.


  • Take-up of some communications services is lower in Scotland than the UK average. Adults in Scotland are less likely than the UK average to own a mobile phone, smartphone, any type of computer, have any type of internet connection, broadband connection or fixed broadband connection. There were no significant differences in take-up between rural and urban locations in Scotland in 2017.
  • Fixed broadband users in urban Scotland were more likely than rural users to say they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with their overall service (85% vs. 68%) and the speed of their connection (82% vs. 67%). Users in rural areas were more likely than those in urban areas to be ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ dissatisfied with their overall broadband service (16% vs. 5%) and broadband speeds (24% vs. 6%).
  • About nine in ten (87%) mobile phone users in Scotland were ‘very or fairly’ satisfied with their mobile reception in 2017, in line with the UK average (86%) and unchanged since 2016.
  • Mobile phone users in urban areas of Scotland were more likely than those in rural areas to say they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with their mobile reception (91%vs. 70%), while users in rural areas of Scotland were more likely to say they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ dissatisfied (17% vs. 4%).
  • Eighty one percent of adults in the City of Glasgow had fixed-line internet access at home in 2016, and 88% had access at home via a fixed line and/or a mobile phone.  Take-up of fixed broadband services in Glasgow is now consistent with that of the UK as a whole, whereas in 2013 just 50% of homes in Glasgow had a fixed internet connection.


  • Almost nine in ten people (87.1%) in Scotland listen to the radio at least once a week – lower than the UK average (89.6%), and the lowest proportion of all the individual nations.
  • On average, people in Scotland listen for 20 hours 36 minutes each week. Commercial stations accounted for 53% of listening hours in Scotland in 2017. Most commercial listening in Scotland is to local commercial stations, which account for 37% of total listening hours.
  • The weekly reach of BBC Radio Scotland was 20%, five percentage points higher than the aggregate reach for BBC local services in England and six percentage points higher than BBC Radio Wales. Although reach has dropped slightly since 2016, the average listening hours are at their highest level since 2008 (7 hours 8 minutes).
  • More than half of homes (53%) had a DAB radio, up two percentage points in a year. 42% of radio listening is via digital platforms, up 0.9 percentage points on last year.
  • There are now 87 stations broadcasting on DAB in Scotland, though not all are currently accessible throughout Scotland. There are also 74 analogue stations available across Scotland.
  • Per-capita local commercial radio revenues continue to be highest in Scotland (£7.93) compared to the other nations. BBC spend on content for BBC Radio Scotland and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal fell by 10% in real terms, to £4.59.


  • In 2017, 77% of households in Scotland had access to the internet via a fixed broadband and/or mobile phone.
  • Four in ten (41%) internet users in Scotland regard their smartphones as their most important device for getting online.
  • Seven in ten adults (70%) personally use a smartphone. This is lower than the UK overall figure (76%). Almost six in ten households in Scotland own a tablet (56%), in line with the UK average.


  • On average, people in Scotland send three invitations/greeting cards/postcards items through the post in a typical month.
  • In line with the UK average (81%), more than four in five adults (84%) in Scotland spend less than £20 on postage in the previous month. One in five (22%) had spent less than £1, which is higher than the UK overall (18%).
  • More than six in ten adults (65%) in Scotland are using more email instead of post compared to two years ago. 48% of people in Scotland are sending fewer payments for bills, invoices and statements by post than two years ago.
  • Overall satisfaction with Royal Mail is 82% in Scotland, in line with the UK overall (83%).