The number of UK subscriptions to television streaming services like Netflix has overtaken those to traditional pay television for the first time, marking a major shift in the UK’s viewing habits.
The amount of revenue generated from pay TV has also fallen for the first time, after a period of sustained growth, new research from Ofcom finds.
Spending by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, on new UK-made television programmes fell to a 20-year low. At the same time, people are spending less time watching television: average daily broadcast viewing on the television set fell by nine minutes in 2017 – and is down 38 minutes since 2012.
The report highlights a competitive shift within the UK television industry, driven by the rise of the major global internet companies and the changing habits and preferences of UK audiences. With more choice for viewers than ever before, UK broadcasters are competing for viewers in an increasingly fragmented landscape.
Key findings include:
Streaming overtakes established pay TV. The total number of UK subscriptions to the three most popular online streaming services – Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky’s Now TV – reached 15.4 million in Q1 2018, overtaking, for the first time, the number of pay TV subscriptions, at 15.1 million; and
Sharon White, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said: “Today’s research finds that what we watch and how we watch it are changing rapidly, which has profound implications for UK television.
“We have seen a decline in revenues for pay TV, a fall in spending on new programmes by our public service broadcasters, and the growth of global video streaming giants. These challenges cannot be underestimated.
“But UK broadcasters have a history of adapting to change. By making the best British programmes and working together to reach people who are turning away from TV, our broadcasters can compete in the digital age.”
Television and online video revenues in 2017
Average minutes of daily broadcast TV viewing on the TV set, by age
The Media Nations report also shows how increased take-up of superfast broadband and connected televisions is driving changes in how people watch TV.
Across all devices, the UK’s total television and audio-visual daily viewing in 2017 reached five hours and one minute.
The majority of this daily viewing (three hours 33 minutes or 71%) was to broadcast television, with the remainder (one hour 28 minutes or 29%) to non-broadcast content, such as YouTube and subscription on-demand services, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Younger viewers (age 16-34), however, watched more non-broadcast than broadcast content – an average of 2 hours 37 minutes a day (54%) across all devices, compared with 2 hours 11 minutes (46%) respectively.
Total audiovisual viewing time spent, all individuals vs. 16-34s
Viewers’ confidence in public service broadcasting remains high. Of those people who watch channels from the public service broadcasters, three-quarters (75%) say they are satisfied, and 84% of people considered trusted news to be the most important feature of their output.
But the report also underlines the challenges facing the UK’s public service broadcasters from changing technology, audience fragmentation and global competition.
It reinforces Ofcom’s call, earlier this year, for UK broadcasters to collaborate to compete to match online competitors' growing scale. That means UK broadcasters joining forces with each other, or with third parties, to share ideas and pool resources.
Ofcom expects public service broadcasters to adapt for the digital age by finding new ways to distribute programmes; capture younger audiences; and make world-class content that reflects life in the UK – which has not typically been a focus for global internet video streaming companies.
As with video streaming, music streaming services, like Apple Music and Spotify, continue to soar in popularity. For the first time, music industry revenues from online streaming subscriptions exceeded physical sales in 2017. Total retail music sales grew by 6% in real terms between 2016 and 2017 driven by a 38% increase in online streaming service subscriptions to £577m.
In contrast, overall sales of physical music formats fell to £470m.The shift away from music ownership towards streaming was reflected by a 25% drop in sales of music downloads.
Almost a quarter (23%) of all adults listen to music via streaming services each week, increasing to over half (51%) of those aged 15-24.
Radio listening reached a significant milestone in the first quarter of 2018, as, for the first time, more than half of all listening hours (50.9%) were through a digital platform - DAB, online or through digital TV.
This is being driven by an increase in the proportion of adults who now have a DAB set (64%) and the greater choice of national commercial stations now available to listeners.
NOTES TO EDITORS