Box Set Britain: 8 in 10 admit to binge-viewing
James R | On 04, Aug 2017
It’s official: Britain has become a nation of telly addicts, as research from Ofcom shows just how normal binge-viewing has become.
40 million of us now watch episodes back-to-back, according to Ofcom, prompting it to dub the country “Box Set Britain”. 8 in 10 adults now watch multiple episodes of their favourite shows in a single sitting via catch-up platforms, such as BBC iPlayer, or subscription services, such as Netflix. The wait for next week’s instalment is a thing if the last – one third (35 per cent) do so every week, and more than half (55 per cent) do it every month.
Most binge viewers (70 per cent) find this type of viewing relaxing and enjoyable, while for others, it’s an opportunity to discuss with friends (24 per cent). For many, the desire to keep up with programmes is driven by fear of someone spoiling its ending (25 per cent) This can result in some (16 per cent) feeling under pressure to keep up with the viewing habits of family or friends.
But around a third (32 per cent) of adults admit the temptation to watch another episode has cost them sleep. Binge viewing has such a strong allure that many viewers say they don’t intend to do it, but the pull of the next episode keeps them tuned in. More than seven in ten (74 per cent) say they sometimes watch more than they intend to, while 18 per cent say this always happens.
After admitting to the problem, some our now attempting to cure it: around a third of binge viewers, and almost half (47 per cent) of young adults aged 16-24 are trying to cut down their viewing in some way. This includes rationing their viewing (19 per cent), finding an alternative hobby (10 per cent) or even cancelling a TV subscription (4 per cent).
But the notion of watching too much TV is nothing new, going right back to the Noel Edmunds-hosted game show Telly Addicts. Binge-viewing is part of a broader cultural shift caused by technological shift, as much as it is a rise in people glued to their screens. The trend has been driven, in part, by the availability of faster home internet speeds, a rise in the number of connected TVs, and increased take-up of smartphones and tablets. A generational divide therefore remains clear. Bingeing is most popular among young people: more than half (53 per cent) of those aged 12-15 enjoy weekly watch-a-thons, compared to just 16 per cent of over-65s.
For that older age group, more than half (59 per cent) prefer a traditional release of one episode per week. For others, the days of being tied to the TV schedule are fading, as UK viewers take advantage of being able to watch whenever, wherever they like. More than a third of people watch TV on the move – while on holiday (24 per cent), while commuting (16 per cent) or even in the pub (7 per cent). Just over a half of people (51 per cent) watch TV in their bedroom, while others watch in the kitchen (16 per cent), the garden (9 per cent) or the bathroom (9 per cent).
As schedules become more personalised, TV may also increasingly become a solo activity. Two in five adults say they watch TV alone every day, and almost nine in 10 watch programmes alone at least once a week. One third of people say members of their household sit together, in the same room, watching different programmes on separate screens.
Despite this, nine in 10 people watch live TV every week, and family viewing is still an integral part of family life. Three in ten (30 per cent) adults say their family still watches the same programmes or films together every day, while 70 per cent do so at least once a week. Nearly seven in 10 say watching TV can bring the whole family together for a shared viewing experience.
Accessibility is also a factor, and Ofcom’s research confirms the role subscriptions have to play, revealing that younger people are far more likely to take advantage of streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Video.
More than seven in 10 (76 per cent) young people aged 16-24 use a subscription streaming service, compared to less than two in 10 older people aged 65 and over.
Lindsey Fussell, Consumer Group Director at Ofcom, says: “Technology has revolutionised the way we watch TV. The days of waiting a week for the next episode are largely gone.”