The UK is now a streaming nation, new figures from Ofcom reveal, with around half of the country’s homes subscribing to a streaming service.
The number of UK households signed up to the most popular streaming platforms – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV and Disney Life – increased from 11.2m (39 per cent of households) in 2018 to 13.3m (47 per cent) in 2019, according to Ofcom’s Media Nations Report. With many homes using more than one service, the total number of UK streaming subscriptions increased from 15.6m to 19.1m in 2018.
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.
Daily viewing of streaming services increased by seven minutes last year, to 26 minutes, while viewing of YouTube increased by 6 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.
Despite the fall in traditional broadcast TV viewing, the five main public service broadcasters’ (PSB) channels held their share of viewing – at 52 per cent in 2018 compared to 51 per cent in 2017. At the same time, three-quarters of viewers of the PSBs’ channels say they are 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, says: “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.”
However, “a few popular drama and entertainment programmes are not enough on their own to stem the overall decline in broadcast TV viewing”, warns Ofcom’s report. To counteract the overall drop in broadcast viewing since 2017, about 34 additional series of Bodyguard would need to have been broadcast in 2018. Similarly, although ITV2’s Love Island gained large audiences in June and July 2018, about 14 ‘Love Islands’ would be required to counteract the year-on-year drop in broadcast viewing.
Broadcasters are adapting to changing viewing behaviours and to attract younger viewers who are using streaming services. All episodes of Season 1 (2018) and Season 2 (2019) of BBC One’s Killing Eve were made available as a box set on BBC iPlayer immediately after the broadcast of the first episode. Some 4.6 million people watched the final episode of Season 1 online pre-broadcast compared to 3.3 million who watched the episode live or time-shifted. Other programmes are succeeding by gaining viewers on other devices and by integrating broadcast content with social media. One episode of ITV2’s Love Island in 2018 achieved an increase of 24 per cent on its TV set audience with viewers watching on PCs/laptops, tablets and smartphones, bringing its total to 4.9 million viewers.
But broadcaster-on-demand services “are lagging behind” subscription VOD, warns Ofcom. BVoD services (including iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4 and My5) remained at a similar overall level of viewing in 2018 compared to 2017; people in the UK are watching on average around 8 minutes of BVoD a day compared to 26 minutes of SVoD.