Traditional television viewing in the United Kingdom has fallen but still comprises around 70% of television viewing time. Public service broadcasters account for half of that, with viewing of BBC television falling to an average of less than an hour a day, or under half an hour for those aged 25-34. Around half of homes in the United Kingdom now subscribe to video streaming services. The second annual Ofcom Media Nations Report reviews some key trends in television and video. Whether the glass is half full or half empty depends on your view.
Over 95% of households in the United Kingdom have a television set receiving broadcast programmes. 1.2 million homes, or over 4% of the total, have broadband and use other devices for watching television but do not have a working television set.
Broadcast still accounts for the majority of all viewing, but the decline is accelerating.
Average viewing of video across all devices by all individuals was up slightly, at 4 hours 54 minutes.
Traditional television viewing fell by 11 minutes per day to an average of 3 hours and 12 minutes a day, accounting for 69% of television time. Viewers now watch 50 minutes less traditional television each day than they did in 2010.
Viewing of all BBC channels fell to less than an hour a day for the first time, at just over 30% of viewing, down from 33% in 2010.
While viewing among those aged over 75 has remained high, at 5 hours 49 minutes a day, it has declined across all other age groups.
The biggest shift is among younger people, aged 16-24, whose viewing of traditional television has halved over that time, although on average they still watch for an hour and fifteen minutes a day.
Across those aged 24-35, total television viewing of the five main public service channels fell to under an hour a day. For BBC channels it fell to under half an hour a day for the first time, or just 22% of their television viewing.
Across all devices, those aged 16-34 watch an average of 4 hours 34 minutes of video per day, of which 42% is broadcast programming, including 83 minutes of live television, 22 minutes of recorded playback, and 10 minutes of broadcaster video on demand.
However, they watch other video for an average of 2 hours and 39 minutes a day, including 40 minutes of Netflix, and an amazing 64 minutes a day of YouTube.
Although broadcast television still accounts for around two-thirds of total viewing, four in ten viewers now say that online video services are their main way of watching television and movies.
Among users of online subscription video services, 38% said they could envisage their household not watching broadcast television at all within five years, with 47% among those aged 25-34 agreeing with that statement, although that was down from 49% the previous year.
The number of households in the United Kingdom that have signed up to the most popular streaming platforms — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV and Disney Life — increased from 11.2m or 39% of households in 2018 to 13.3m or 47% of households in 2019. That includes an estimated 11.47 million households with Netflix. That compares to 14.3 million subscriptions to traditional pay-television services like Sky, Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk.
Although audience satisfaction has fallen gradually from 80% in 2014, 74% of viewers of public service broadcast still claim to be satisfied with these services.
Broadcast television on a television set still reaches 89% of all individuals, with 53 million people in the United Kingdom watching for at least 15 minutes a week in 2018, down marginally from 90% in 2017. It continues to provide mass advertising reach unlike any other medium and fulfils needs that online-only providers currently do not provide to anything like the same extent, including public service programming, serendipity and the communal experience.
The five public service broadcasters delivered over 32,000 hours of original programming made in the United Kingdom across their channels in 2018, with the BBC contributing nearly 60% of that.
Only 221 hours of original productions were made in the United Kingdom for subscription video services.
Bodyguard was the most watched drama in 2018, with 14.3 million viewers for the final episode. The programme was commissioned by the BBC, produced by an ITV company, and is distributed outside the United Kingdom as a Netflix original.
Ofcom notes that a few popular drama and entertainment programmes are not enough on their own to stem the overall decline in broadcast television viewing. It calculates that 34 additional series of Bodyguard would be required to compensate for the overall drop in broadcast viewing in 2018.
The online video services of the five public service broadcasters account for an average of just 8 minutes a day of viewing, compared to 26 minutes for online subscription video services like Netflix.
Despite relentless promotion, the BBC iPlayer accounts for an average of just 2 minutes of viewing a day among those aged 18-34.
People still watch much more recorded broadcast programming on their personal video recorders, at an average of 30 minutes a day.
“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,” said Yih-Choung Teh, who heads streategy and research at Ofcom. “But traditional broadcasters still have a vital role to play, producing the kind of brilliant UK programmes that overseas tech giants struggle to match.”
Media Nations: UK 2019 provides a compendium of useful viewing data. It is published by Ofcom and available from its web site, with versions also available for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.