A survey on the changing television landscape in the United Kingdom shows that online viewing and watching episodes of a programme back to back are prevalent but live television remains the most popular way of watching programmes.

The annual Communications Market Report from the United Kingdom communications regulator Ofcom contains a compendium of data on television viewing and other trends.

96% of homes in the United Kingdom have a television, which is the same or greater than over the previous five years. Over 90% of the population watch television at least once a week. Average household spending on television remains relatively unchanged over five years, at £32.90 a month, including the compulsory £12.25 a month television licence.

Across all individuals, BARB data show that average television viewing of 3 hours 23 minutes per person per day in 2016 was down by four minutes on the previous year, although 30 minutes a day less than in 2011. Those aged over 65 continue to watch a lot of television, viewing for 5 hours and 44 minutes a day in 2016, up by 48 minutes from 2006. Those aged 16-24 watched an average of 1 hours and 54 minutes, which is 41 minutes less than in 2006.

The report also includes the results of the changing television landscape survey. This research was conducted in April and May, based on an online survey of over 2,000 adults and interviews with over 500 12-15 year olds.

When asked what on-demand and streaming services they use to watch television programmes and films, the BBC iPlayer was the most popular choice, cited by 63% of adults, followed by ITV Hub at 40% and YouTube at 38%. Netflix was cited by 31%, compared to 28% who said recorded television, and 20% who said Amazon Prime. Among teens, 66% used YouTube to watch television programmes or films, although that could also include clips of shows.

Asked which services were used to keep up with the news or what was happening around them, 57% of adults said they used live or recorded broadcast television. 55% said they used it for alone time, 51% said to keep up to date with a programme or storyline, 44% said for de-stressing or unwinding, 35% for family time, 34% said to learn something new, 26% to keep up to date with the latest sport, 20% said for background noise and 13% said for company, with 9% saying to keep children entertained.

Reasons for watching programmes on live broadcast/recorded television. Source: Ofcom, Communications Market 2017, Populus

Among those age 12-15, a base of 242 respondents, 56% said they watched television as family time, 41% said for alone time, and 40% said to keep up to date with a programme or storyline.

While 68% of people said that watching television programmes and films brings the family together, 31% said that members of their household sit together in the same room watching different programmes on different screens at least once a week. However, 30% also said that they sat together with family members to watch the same programme or film on the same device every day, while 70% said they did this at least once a week.

79% said they watched multiple episodes of the same programme back-to-back in one sitting, with 35% doing so at least weekly, rising to 62% among those aged 16-24, with 82% in that age range doing this at least monthly. 46% of those who watched episodes back to back did so with family or friends.

A third of adults who watched back-to-back episodes at least monthly admitted to sometimes missing out on sleep or being tired the next day because of this type of viewing. A fifth said it made them feel guilty for not doing something else. 8% said it made them neglect their job or school work and 7% said it made them miss out on spending time with their friends or family.

Although people are changing they way they watch, traditional live broadcast television is still at the heart of the viewing experience. When asked what they would do first when wanting to watch a television programme or film, the top answer was switch on the television and see what is on broadcast television, chosen by half of all respondents. The second ranked response, to go to Netflix, Amazon Prime or online subscription services, was chosen by 12%, just ahead of going to straight to the digital video recorder.

The Communications Market Report for 2017 is available from the Ofcom web site.