Changes in viewing present major challenges to broadcasters in the United Kingdom. Although broadcasters account for the majority of viewing, this is in decline, particularly among younger viewers. Those aged over 54 now account for half of all television viewing and the number of programmes with audiences over 5 million has fallen by a fifth since 2010.

The annual Ofcom Communications Market Report documents the decline in viewing and the disintegration of mass audiences.

Enhanced connectivity and the proliferation of connected devices has transformed the way people watch television and video in the United Kingdom, further fragmenting audiences for broadcasters.
Televisions that can connect directly to the internet have gone from 5% of households in 2012 to 42% in 2018.

People watch an average of 88 minutes of non-broadcast programming on their televisions each day. Public service broadcasters compete for viewers on the television set with subscription video-on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which are now in 39% of households in the United Kingdom, as well as with other online platforms, like YouTube.

Young adults aged 16-24 watch an average of an hour of YouTube a day, and YouTube and Netflix have higher brand recognition than the BBC or ITV among 12-15 year-olds.

Total broadcast television industry revenue fell from £14.2 billion in 2016 to £13.6 billion in 2017, but has remained relatively static since 2012, while online television and video revenue has risen from £0.4 billion to £2.3 billion.

Nevertheless, despite more choice across more platforms, broadcasters continue to account for the majority of viewing.

People watch an average of 3 hours 23 minutes of broadcast television a day, but viewing has been falling since 2010 and there was a steeper decline in 2017, with daily viewing time down by an average of nine minutes a day.

While viewing among aged over 65 remains almost unchanged at 5 hours 43 minutes a day, by children aged 4-15 fell by 15% in 2017 to an average of 1 hour 24 minutes, and viewing among those aged 16-24 fell by 12% to an average of 1 hour 40 minutes.

Average Daily Viewing, UK, 2010-2017. Source: Ofcom.

Over-54s make up 28% of the population of the UK but accounted for 51% of television viewing in 2017. The average age of the audience for a drama programme is 57, while for soaps it is 54, for sport it is 56 and for entertainment shows on the main public service broadcaster channels it is 55.

Shows with mass appeal, those with audiences over 8 million, are now increasingly difficult to generate, particularly in the soaps and entertainment genres, but high-end drama and major sport
events continue to deliver mass viewing for linear television.

Programmes with audiences over 8 million, UK, 2010-2017. Source: Ofcom.

In 2017 there were fewer than 1,500 programmes with an audience of over 5 million, over half of them were soaps, compared to 1,900 in 2010. However, there were only 200 programmes with an audience of over 8 million. Only 63 of them were soaps, with the same number of entertainment shows, and none of them were sports, although the World Cup football in 2018 produced an audience of over 20 million. The number of episodes of dramas with audiences of over 5 million has fallen from over 300 in 2010 to 243 in 2017, although the number with audiences of over 8 million rose from 31 to 52.

The Communications Market Report 2018 and Media Nations Report 2018 are available from the Ofcom web site.