A surge in screen time during lockdown saw people in Scotland spend nearly six hours a day watching TV and online video services on the TV set, Ofcom has found in its annual study of the nation’s media habits.
As people across Scotland followed official health advice to stay home during April 2020, they kept themselves informed and entertained by spending 5 hours and 46 minutes each day on average – or 40 hours a week – watching broadcast TV, online video content and gaming – a rise of a third (33%) on last year.
The biggest factor behind this increase was people in Scotland spending nearly twice as much time (+87%) watching video-on-demand services such as Netflix, Disney+, YouTube and other non-broadcast content – an hour and 37 minutes per day on average in April 2020.
However, broadcast TV viewing retained the largest share of daily time spent with the TV during peak lockdown – reaching an average of 3 hours and 59 minutes in April 2020 (+18% compared with 2019).
Ofcom's Media Nations: Scotland 2020 report finds that when lockdown was announced towards the end of March, average daily viewing of broadcast television peaked at 4 hours 26 minutes in Scotland, driven by demand for the latest news on the pandemic. This was the highest level of viewing of all the UK Nations.
News programming on TV reached an average of 74% of the population in Scotland each week in March 2020, although this decreased to 69% by June.
The BBC proved to be the most popular source of news about the pandemic overall in Scotland; more than seven in 10 online adults used its TV, radio and online services from the early weeks of lockdown through to mid-June. In comparison, six in 10 online adults in Scotland (59%) used non-BBC broadcaster services - mainly STV - during the first four weeks of lockdown, but this had decreased to five in 10 (51%) by mid-June.
The demand for trusted news about the pandemic meant that the public service broadcasters – the BBC, STV, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 – grew their combined monthly share of broadcast TV viewing across Scotland to 59% in March 2020 (up from 57% in February).
But the boost to the PSBs’ audience figures during lockdown was short-lived, as the pandemic interrupted production of soaps, major sporting events and entertainment shows. By June 2020 their combined monthly share of broadcast TV viewing across the UK fell to 55%, its lowest level since August 2019.
The outlook for commercial public service broadcasters PSBs is especially tough, as they manage cost-cutting measures amid financial uncertainty. Their cumulative revenues declined by 3.5% in 2019 to £2.2bn, and TV advertising revenues are expected to fall 17-19% in 2020.
Across the UK, an estimated 12 million adults signed up to a new video streaming service during lockdown, of whom around 3 million had never subscribed to one before.
Disney+, which launched on the first day of the UK’s lockdown, made an immediate impact. The new service attracted 16% of online adults by early July across the UK, surpassing NOW TV (10%) to become the third most-popular subscription streaming service behind Netflix (45%) and Amazon Prime Video (39%).
Among children aged 3-11, Disney+ was used in a third of homes (32%) by June – overtaking BBC iPlayer which saw use among these children fall from 26% to 22% during the spring.
While viewing to traditional broadcast television declined from its early lockdown peak, the uplift in viewing of video-on-demand and other non-broadcast content in Scotland has held steady, at 84% higher than the year before.
And our adoption of streaming services appears likely to continue after lockdown. The overwhelming majority of online adults across the UK signed up to Netflix (96%), Amazon Prime Video (91%) and Disney+ (84%) said they plan to keep their subscriptions in the months ahead.
Similarly, more than half of UK adults (55%) say that they will continue to spend the same amount of time watching streamed content in future as they did during lockdown.
Glenn Preston, Ofcom Scotland Director, said: “While following advice to stay indoors during peak lockdown, people in Scotland relied on the TV to keep informed and entertained, from the First Minister’s daily updates to escapist content like Tiger King on Netflix.
“The pandemic showed public service broadcasting at its best, but UK broadcasters face a tough advertising market, production challenges and financial uncertainty. They need to keep demonstrating that value in the face of intense competition from streaming services.”